Europe's Palestine Problem

Making Sure the EU Matters to Middle East Peace

Courtesy Reuters

In the middle of a stalled peace process, one of the few things Israeli and Palestinian officials agree on is that U.S. President Barack Obama deserves much of the blame for the impasse. Israeli policymakers are furious with the demand that Obama made early in his term that Israel freeze settlement construction in the West Bank and with his declaration in May that Israel's 1967 borders should serve as the starting point for peace discussions. Palestinian leaders, for their part, believe that Obama has failed to fulfill the promise he made in his June 2009 Cairo speech to back their legitimate aspirations for statehood, and they are irritated that he has not forced the Israelis to continue the settlement freeze. The recent decisions by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to strike a unity deal with Hamas and press for UN recognition of Palestinian statehood is a sign of how frustrated with Washington he has become.

In the face of this impasse, a variety of international figures are now asking Europe to step in. Arab leaders such as former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa have called on Europe to take charge of the peace process. In a May meeting with EU officials, for example, King Abdullah of Jordan urged Europe "to intensify efforts with a view to removing the obstacles that impede the resumption of the peace process."

The EU's current political and diplomatic leaders need no encouragement. They already seem to feel that they have both a right and a duty to help solve the conflict. Last year, then French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Miguel Ángel Moratinos, his Spanish counterpart, said in a joint statement that the EU "must play a role because it is a friend of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority [PA] and above all because its own long-term security is at stake."

There is just one problem: neither the EU nor any of its member states are up to the task. Europe will always play second fiddle

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