In 2012, Europeans failed to find a response to Operation Pillar of Defence, settlement expansions, and the UNGA vote on Palestinian observer status.
Judging by their own criteria for success, 2012 was a failure for Europeans. Above all, they wanted a return to negotiations, but after a brief Jordanian-facilitated negotiation in January, there were no more talks. They called for an end to Israeli settlement expansion, but instead it proceeded at breakneck pace (some 5,500 units built in 2012, a threefold increase from 2011). They also urged the US to re-engage but this did not happen either. Europeans failed to persuade the Palestinians to postpone their bid to upgrade their status at the UN, although at the vote in the UNGA in November Europeans were at least slightly more united than at UNESCO a year earlier: only the Czech Republic opposed the Palestinian upgrade, with 14 voting in favour and 12 abstaining. Despite the euro crisis, the EU’s continued financial support for the PA and for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) remained impressive: in 2012 it allocated €156 million towards the PA’s recurrent expenditure (in addition to an annual UNRWA contribution in excess of €100 million). But the PA nevertheless ended the year in worse financial straits as the Israeli government again withheld some of its revenues.
Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defence in November showed that the EU still has no coherent policy on Gaza four years after the devastation of Operation Cast Lead. As Arab League ministers flocked to Hamas’s side, Europe was relegated to the margins. European ministerial-level visits to Israel may have helped to some extent in advancing a ceasefire. A possible EU-resumed border role at Rafah, on which Germany has played an instrumental role, could be constructive but a bolder rethink is long overdue. The EU also struggled to respond meaningfully to further settlement announcements immediately after the UN vote, notably in the E1 area of occupied Palestinian land around Jerusalem. However, the EU appears to be considering some limited steps to leverage its influence. Led by Denmark, Ireland, and the UK, and building on the impressive reporting work undertaken by EU member-state missions on the ground, European foreign ministers moved in the direction of taking action on settlement products.
|Leaders: Denmark - Ireland - United Kingdom|
|Slackers: Belgium - Czech Republic - Latvia|