Only one EU member country, the Czech Republic, voted against the recognition of Palestine as a UN member state. Of the 26 others, 14 voted in favor, while Holland and Germany, traditional allies of Israel, abstained. The other contrary votes were those of Israel, the US, Canada, Panama and four small Pacific island states. It has never been so clear that the interests of Israel and the United States, which shows a friendly face to the world except in the Middle East, are beginning to be divergent.
Washington will do the best it can with this situation, but clearly the UN vote reflects a reality: Israel's policy of occupation and progressive settlement of the Palestinian territory, and the cruel manner in which this is happening, is causing more irritation every day. The power of the images on the internet and on channels such as Al Jazeera, with which the Palestinians have broken the wall of silence and isolation that has surrounded them for decades, are having a real political effect.
True, the EU has been unable to take a united political stance, once again showing the impossibility of a common foreign policy, but some form of unanimity is developing in internal documents, which have little political relevance, but reflect growing annoyance. The EU is not, of course, going to alter its firm defense of the existence of the state of Israel, and of its right to security; but every day more, without publicity but with greater insistence, it is pointing out to Tel Aviv that the rights of the Palestinians also exist, and that they are being systematically violated by the Israelis.
The latest of these documents, which perhaps may be responsible for Germany's unexpected abstention in the UN, is the one approved by the EU's Political and Security Committee on November 16. It notes an increment in attacks made by Israeli settlers on the civilian population of the Palestinian territories, and the obvious impunity with which they act. "European diplomats must be attentive to these problems, and be present even in the trials that may happen," the document says, using terms that so far have been reserved only for countries such as Belarus.
The EU has been unable to take a united political stance, once again showing the impossibility of a common foreign policy
The document expresses the committee's concern about the violence of the settlers and their provocation of Palestinian civilians, and calls on the Israeli government to comply with the duties imposed by the international laws, that is, to bring these extremists to trial. "The attacks are growing more severe and, in some cases, are coordinated," it explains. And they are growing far more frequent, increasing by 32 percent in 2011 over 2010, affecting men, women and children, their fields (10,000 trees have been uprooted) and their places of worship (more than 10 mosques destroyed this year alone). Most of these aggressions take place in the West Bank, and many of them "seem to be part of a system of coercion aimed at forcing the Palestinian communities to leave their land, so that the Israeli settlements can expand." The EU experts congratulate the Israeli government for its "firm condemnation" of what its foreign minister called "terrorist attacks," but regret that it is not taking any firm action against them, "thus contributing to a culture of impunity in which the violence continues." Concretely, 90 percent of the complaints that have come to the attention of the UN have been disregarded, with no arrests being made. Besides, the EU document says, many victims cannot even present their claims, because the police stations are located precisely within the Israeli settlements, where the Palestinians cannot enter.
The EU's Political and Security Committee concludes by giving the green light to countries that may desire to do so to impose a prohibition on granting visas to these violent Israeli settlers, so that they would be unable to travel to the EU.