Isolationism almost never works. Instead the most efficient and effective way to bring about change is through dialogue and trade. Already, the EU is Israel’s most sizeable trading partner. Therefore, not upgrading the ‘Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products’ (ACAA) would crucially affect the EU’s ability to project positive influence within Israel for promoting a lasting peace in the region. Furthermore there is a very real danger that it would damage Europe economically at this time of international financial crisis including reducing EU citizen’s access to high quality pharmaceutical products.
To be clear: I empathically support a two state solution as the only way forward which will lead to a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the final reckoning there must be both land for peace swaps between the two sides and a viable, peaceful and sovereign Palestinian State living side-by-side with a secure, recognised Israel. Each country should enjoy normal relations and capacity for trade with its neighbours.
Equally, I support the PA led by President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad as the legitimate government of the Palestinians. Hamas has refused to uphold the Oslo Peace Accords and quartet principles as agreed by the PLO under Chairman Arafat and I reject its vitriolic, anti-Semitic, thoroughly un- Islamic policies as a point of principle. Hamas is the enemy of peace and the advocate of ceaseless violence; little more needs to be said.
The Association agreement with Israel (signed in 1995 and in force from 2000) does not include the occupied territories, and does not include goods originating in these territories. A separate Association agreement between the EU and PA (in force since 1997) relates to the import and export of agricultural products from the Gaza Strip. Surely, trade which lowers medical costs in the EU and saves money in stretched health budgets can only be seen as beneficial? That a technical agreement with no political character has become so bogged down as to be delayed by over two years raises serious questions as to transparency in the European Parliaments.
I have my reservations as to some of the actions taken by the Israeli government, but would defend absolutely the right of a government to defend its people from terrorism. Hamas, which as yet neither renounces violence nor recognises the right for Israel to exist; consequently I can understand why many Israelis view it as an enemy. If the EU is to play an active role in the Middle East peace process then we must look to strengthen our relationships with our neighbours. Rejecting or delaying ACAA does neither.