Europeans have little impact on American policies towards Israel and the peace process. Beyond their superficial unity, they disagree on the means to back up their objectives.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most prominent international issues in Europe and resonates domestically in many member states. Given the role assumed by Americans, it is therefore on the front burner of transatlantic relations. But while Europeans as a whole give about €1 billion per year to the Palestinian Authority and are part of the Quartet, they have little real impact on the peace process because they are unable to influence Israel or even the US. In 2010, their objectives included getting the US to be more forceful in getting negotiations restarted and more balanced in its position as deal broker; to encourage Israel to discontinue the Gaza blockade (see component 59); to get Israel to freeze the building of settlements; and to agree to a larger role for the Quartet.
In the first half of 2010, Europeans highlighted the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza and tried to get Americans to push for the lifting of the blockade. The true game-changer, however, was the flotilla incident in May. Europeans followed up by insisting with Americans on the necessity to conduct an independent investigation and change the blockade regime for Gaza. The role of the Quartet remained secondary in 2010: for example, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton distorted the agreed Quartet communiqué when announcing the resumption of direct talks on 20 August by adding the words “without preconditions” (the necessity for Israelis to freeze settlements).
European officials of all countries regularly raise the Middle East peace process with their American counterparts, but have little to show for it. Options to increase European leverage, both with the US and Israel, are limited by a lack of political consensus. In spite of appeals such as the petition by 26 former European officials to set a deadline to Israel on settlements, EU member states are not ready to put substantial political resources behind their position on Israel.