Al-Jazeerah, November 29, 2006
Members of European Parliament Challenge EU-Israel Relationship
By Chris Davies
Liberal Democrat MEP
The European Parliament will today challenge the EU’s relationship with Israel by calling for international military observers to be sent to Gaza. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are expected to unite across parties and nationalities in condemning the actions of the Israeli Defence Force which have resulted in the death of more than 350 Palestinians over recent months.
They will suggest that a multinational force similar to that now operating in Lebanon could be sent to protect both Palestinian and Israeli civilians.
And they will call on Ministers to examine whether Israel’s actions have breached the human rights requirements of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
The Parliament will demand an end to Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza, and will call on the EU’s Council of Ministers to convene an international peace conference to seek a lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine divide.
While the resolution to be adopted also calls for an end to attacks by Palestinian militants it marks a significant shift in the Parliament’s attitude towards Israel.
Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, who visited Gaza earlier this month, described the adoption of the new position as a "watershed".
He said: "MEPs of all parties are now saying ’enough is enough’. Israel’s response to the firing of rockets by Palestinian militants has been shocking in the extreme.
"The EU has stood aside and wrung its hands for too long. MEPs are calling now it to take an active role to end the violence and bring the two sides to the negotiating table."
European Parliament resolution on the situation in the Gaza Strip
The European Parliament,
– having regard to its previous resolutions on the Middle East, in particular those of 2 February 2006 on the result of the Palestinian elections and the situation in East Jerusalem, 1 June 2006 on the humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories and the role of the EU  and 7 September 2006 on the situation in the Middle East, 
– having regard to UN Security Council Resolutions Nos 242 and 338,
– having regard to the Quartet’s ’Roadmap for Peace’ of 30 April 2003,
– having regard to the conclusions of the External Relations Council of 15 September 2006, 17 October 2006 and 13 November 2006,
– having regard to Rule 103(4) of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas the Israeli military operation in Gaza has resulted in over 350 deaths, including many civilians, since June 2006 and whereas the Israeli attack in Beit Hanun on 8 November 2006 killed 19 Palestinians, mostly children and women,
B. extremely concerned about the fact that, as a result of the massive devastation of public facilities and private homes, the disruption of hospitals, clinics and schools, the denial of access to water, food and electricity, the destruction of agricultural lands and the total blockade on the Gaza Strip, the humanitarian crisis has reached a catastrophic level,
C. whereas attacks targeted directly at civilian assets and disproportionate or indiscriminate attacks on the civilian population represent a flagrant breach of fundamental rights as laid down by international law and the Geneva Conventions,
D. whereas Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed his distress and voiced sorrow for what he said was the result of a ’technical failure’, and having regard to the decision of the Israeli Army to initiate an internal investigation,
E. whereas the right of a state to defend itself cannot justify any disproportionate or indiscriminate use of force, and international humanitarian law strictly prohibits attacks on civilians,
F. whereas the new cycle of violence is threatening the efforts made by the Palestinian National Authority to form a new Palestinian government of national unity,
G. whereas the international community and the European Union are providing considerable support for efforts to solve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the West Bank, with special regard to the Temporary International Mechanism; whereas, however, this assistance cannot meet all needs,
H. deeply concerned at the implications of the recent appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as the new Deputy Prime Minister of Israel,
I. whereas the Middle East peace process is in political and diplomatic deadlock, although a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essential to the establishment of peace and security in the whole region,
J. whereas the European Union, as a member of the Quartet, has a special responsibility for peace and security in the Middle East, which is in Europe’s neighbourhood, and whereas the instruments and methods for the coordination of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) must therefore be improved, inter alia through the adoption of a common position in the framework of the CFSP and on the basis of Articles 15 and 16 of the EU Treaty,
1. Expresses its deepest condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims of the recent bombing in Beit Hanun and to all other innocent casualties;
2. Expresses its deep indignation at the Israeli military operation carried out in Beit Hanun and in Gaza, and condemns the Israeli army’s use of disproportionate action, which is undermining attempts to initiate the peace process;
3. Calls on the Israeli government to halt its military operations in Gaza immediately, and reaffirms that there is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
4. Calls on the Palestinian militias to put an end to the firing of rockets into Israeli territory, which is indiscriminate and deliberately targets civilians, to respect the truce and to refrain from further escalation of the conflict;
5. Expresses its deep concern about the possible grave consequences of the current crisis, including further military and terrorist attacks, undermining the fragile political situation in the region as a whole;
6. Notes the blocking in the United Nations Security Council of a draft resolution on the situation on Gaza by a US veto, and regrets the lack of a strong and clear stance by the international community on the current crisis;
7. Calls on the United States Administration to reassess its role in the Quartet and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a view to supporting an end to the violence and a new and genuine dialogue between the parties;
8. Calls on the Council and the Member States of the European Union to adopt a common position pursuant to Article 15 of the Treaty on European Union, in order to make an appropriate assessment of the current situation and to promote a serious attempt to halt the violence and bring the parties concerned to the negotiating table;
9. Invites the Quartet (UN, EU, USA and Russia) to act urgently for the resumption of negotiations with and between the parties concerned and full implementation of all parts of the Roadmap; declares once again, at this particular stage, that a solution to the Middle East conflict will only be possible through the negotiation of a firm and final peace agreement as set out in the Roadmap, without prior conditions, based on the existence of two democratic, sovereign and viable states, living peacefully side by side within secure and recognised international borders, and that the continuing loss of civilian lives is intolerable;
10. Reiterates its suggestion that the presence of a multinational force in Lebanon could be taken as an exemplary model to be followed in Gaza and the West Bank, in order to protect the civilian population on both sides; invites the Council, in the meantime, to launch an initiative to dispatch international military observers to Gaza, and calls on all parties to endorse and fully cooperate with such a proposal;
11. Calls on the Council urgently to convene the EU-Israel Association Council in order to express the position of the European Union after the Israeli military operations in Gaza, with regard, in particular, to full compliance with Article 2 of the Association Agreement;
12. Calls on the Council to address itself, within the framework of the EU-Palestinian Association Agreement, to the new Palestinian government of national unity in order to confront the issue of violence and security;
13. Stresses that human rights must be fully respected and that the violation of international humanitarian law must be halted immediately in Gaza and the West Bank;
14. Supports the EU Presidency’s statement urging the Israeli government to cease all provocative activities in the Palestinian territories, including settlement building, the construction of the separation wall in the Palestinian territories, indiscriminate military operations and the demolition of Palestinian homes;
15. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to supply extra medical aid to Palestinian hospitals, in particular in Gaza;
16. Welcomes the agreement reached by the President of the Palestinian Authority to promote a national dialogue between the Palestinian parties and the appointment of a new Palestinian Prime Minister to form a new Palestinian government, which should act as a negotiating partner for the international community; considers that this could lead to the restoration of economic aid to the Palestinian Authority;
17. Calls on the Council and the Commission to continue to guarantee, together with the international community, essential humanitarian aid for the Palestinian population; demands that the TIM be reinforced and extended in terms of duration and resources; calls on the Israeli government urgently to resume the transfer of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues;
18. Calls on Israel to lift its economic blockade of Gaza, to facilitate trade between the Palestinian territories, Israel and the world as a whole, to promote economic development in Gaza for the benefit of both Palestinians and Israelis, and to permit the movement of people, in compliance with the Agreement on Movement and Access in Rafah (EU-BAM), in Karni and at other border crossings in Gaza; calls on the EU to face its full responsibility on the implementation of this agreement;
19. Reiterates its call for the immediate release of the Palestinian ministers and legislators in Israeli custody and of the abducted Israeli soldier;
20. Calls on the Council to make every effort to convene an international peace conference - along the lines of the 1991 Madrid Conference - in order to find a comprehensive, lasting and viable solution to the problems in the area, based on the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and considers that a unilateral approach by any of the parties concerned must be rejected;
21. Considers the involvement of the Arab League to be essential in this context; considers the 2002 ’Beirut Plan’, agreed by the member countries of the League of Arab States, and the Geneva Initiative to be important contributions to the negotiations, which should be duly taken into account;
22. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative for the CFSP, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Secretary-General, the President of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Israeli Knesset and government, the governments and parliaments of the United States and the Russian Federation, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.