EU – Much ado about nothing.
European proposals for an international peace summit on Gaza are just pointless navel-gazing, diplomats say POLITICO.
Last week, the EU’s 27 national leaders called for an “international peace conference,” in addition to diplomatic and security initiatives to address in the longer Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the wake of the recent Israel-Hamas war. It was the bloc’s latest attempt to influence events in the Middle East following a series of open disagreements over how to handle the crisis among top officials.
But a week after the call was issued at a gathering of leaders in Brussels, key questions about where such a summit would be hosted, who would attend and what its aims would be remain unanswered.
A spokesperson for the Israeli mission to the EU said they are “not in a position to say if we would attend or not because we don’t know yet what it would actually mean,” adding that so far, no European officials had reached out on the initiative.
Various European countries are vying behind the scenes to host the hypothetical gathering, according to one EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But as long as it’s not clear whether this is something the region wants, the whole discussion about the location is stupid and irrelevant,” the diplomat said.
The ongoing confusion shows how the EU is struggling to prove it is both relevant and united on the Middle East conflict. European leaders agonised for hours over whether to call for a single humanitarian “pause” or multiple “pauses” in the fighting during last week’s summit.
Diplomats speaking privately, because the subject is so sensitive, told POLITICO that this flailing around in search of sensible things to say shows how EU leaders are simply “navel gazing” and playing to domestic audiences enflamed by conflict, rather than trying seriously to deliver peace.
“This is a typical intra-EU discussion which has nothing to do with the reality on the ground,” said one EU official about the peace summit. “But let’s be real: the U.S. has impact and some Gulf countries do, but we don’t — even if we would all be on the same page, which we’re not. It’s the classical hubris of the EU to think that we have a role to play here.”
Indeed, as EU leaders spent five hours debating the wording of their statement last week, Hamas fired rockets towards Israel and Israeli airstrikes continued across Gaza while Israeli tanks began its ground operation into Gaza, with Israel’s leaders vowing to end Hamas and recover more than 200 hostages.
Despite the fact that 27 EU leaders, representing the world’s largest trading bloc, all backed the call for a peace conference, not even Haaretz, a left-leaning Israeli newspaper, carried a mention of the EU leaders’ statement.
Showing a hint of skepticism, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday called the peace conference a “good signal” but added that that “such an initiative can only work if everyone else who is also important participates, so that this becomes a reality.”
In other words: without the participation of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other relevant players, any peace conference will be a dud.
“Let’s wait and see what this entails,” the spokesperson for the Israeli mission said, while stressing that Israel is now focusing on “eliminating” Hamas. “Our main focus now is the military organization. We want to destroy Hamas, we want to release all the hostages, this is where all our resources and headspace is at the moment.”
Asked for more details, a European Commission spokesperson said they did not have any further information on the plan and reiterated the EU “supports the holding of an international peace conference soon.”
Coming after an open rift between Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council chief Michel and the EU’s top diplomat, Borrell, regarding the conflict, the confusion surrounding the EU’s call for a peace conference adds to a sense that the bloc is impotent when it comes to the Israel-Hamas war.
“The EU as entity will not be able to carry such a conference due to internal disagreements, but also because it lacks credibility,” said Erwin van Veen from at Clingendael Institute, a Dutch think tank. “The U.S. has no credibility whatsoever due to its unwavering support for Israel. A solution might be found in a coalition of EU member states with more historical awareness of the issue, such as France, Spain and Ireland, combined with Turkey and Saudi Arabia as regional powers.”
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