Friday, December 5, 2008

Suspended European vote on special status for Israel

For years, Europe and the United States have afforded Israel a variety of economic privileges. For the first time now, the option of making these conditional upon Israeli compliance with human rights conventions and international law is being seriously weighed. Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament, has consistently sounded a critical analysis of Israeli human rights violations and, no less, of European responsibility to hold Israel accountable, as an occupying power. The following press release, issued by Morgantini's office, reports a significant step in this direction.

Rela Mazali


`Israel IS NOT ABOVE THE LAW` The European Parliament suspends the vote on the upgrade of EU Israel relations

by LUISA MORGANTINI Vice President of the European Parliament Press release
04 Dec 2008

The European Parliament (EP) today postponed the vote on the proposal by the EU Commission and Council for the draft recommendation to conclude a Protocol to the EU-Israel Association Agreement and on the general principles governing the State of Israel`s participation in Community programmes . The vote was originally scheduled for tomorrow, Thursday, December 4, in the EP in Brussels.

This vote would have been an important step in the process of upgrading EU-Israel relations, which was requested by the Israeli Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tzipi Livni, during her hearing in the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs, within the framework of the Protocol for the Association Agreement between EU and Israel. However, the European Parliament voted differently : the majority of parliamentarians called for a postponement of the vote to another date yet to be determined, as requested by the GUE/NGL and Greens groups, with agreement from the Socialist Party, some of the Liberals (ALDE) and some MEPs from the Popular Party.

`It`s time for the Israeli Government to stop considering itself above the law and start respecting it, beginning by freezing all settlement -building activities and ending its siege on the Gaza Strip. Until the Israeli Government signals its willingness to abide by international law and especially human rights and humanitarian law, the European Parliament is not disposed to vote,` declared Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament.

`Today`s vote is an important political message, directed not against Israel, but at pushing the Israeli leadership to respect their obligations in order to achieve tangible results from the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, so that they can reach a peaceful solution and the security of the two peoples. It is also a signal to the EU Council and Commission, that they must put pressure on Israel to stop its colonization of the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territory.

But this vote is also a sign of hope for the Palestinians, telling them that the European Parliament is not deaf to the suffering of people in Gaza and the West Bank, and that the EP is not only determined to verbally criticize the situation but to take concrete action for the respect of human rights and international law.

It is also an answer to PM Salam Fayyad, who launched an appeal to the EU to not upgrade its relations with Israel since after Annapolis there have not been improvements, neither in lifting the closures on Palestinian areas nor freezing settlements; it is also an answer to Palestinian civil society and to the NGOs that have sent many letters to European Parliamentarians.

Finally this vote is positive for us Europeans, who are showing to ourselves and to the entire world that respect for human rights and the achievement of justice are not an abstract declaration of principles,` concluded Luisa Morgantini.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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