Beirut, 3/11/2010- Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations convened today its conference “The European Foreign Policy towards the Palestinian Issue” at the Crown Plaza hotel in Beirut, with the participation of a select of intellectuals, academics, and concerned with the Palestinian issue, representing around 20 Arab and Western countries.
The conference that will resume its proceedings tomorrow Thursday, will observe the presentation and discussion of 18 specialized papers distributed on six sessions, aiming primarily at: studying the determinants of the European foreign policy towards the Palestinian issue and the European-Israeli relations; and exploring the differences between the public and official European stances towards the Palestinian issue, and how could this difference be employed to serve the Palestinian and Arab interests. Additionally, the conference studies the means and possibilities of influencing the European public stances on the Palestinian issue, as well as the official European stances on Arab and Palestinian issues.
The keynote address was presented by the General Manager of Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh, who welcomed the guests hoping that the conference will be able to offer a better understanding of the European polices towards the Palestinian issue, and a critical reading of the European foreign policies, in addition to examining the practical suggestions that would help promote a positive European role towards the Palestinian issue. Saleh also gave a glimpse of the Centre’s achievements in the past few years, where it has become among the leading centres in the field of studies related to the Palestinian issue, publishing annually more than 25 specialized academic books on the Palestinian issue, i.e. an average of one book every two weeks.
The First Session
The first session was entitled: “The European Foreign Policy towards the Palestinian Issue: Preface and Fundamental Obstacles” and moderated by Prof. Dr. Adnan al-Sayed Hussien. Three papers were presented, the first was by Dr. Alain Gresh, Chief Editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, on “The Backgrounds of the European Foreign Policy towards the Palestinian Issue”; presented by Dr. Layla Al-Rahbani. Gresh argued in his paper that Europe should acknowledge the idea that the conflict is not between rival parties but rather a conflict between an occupier and an occupied; and if Europe really believes that the solution is in declaring an independent Palestinian state, then it should seriously pressure towards achieving this, as only serious and consistent pressure on Israel can lead to the desired change. Gresh regretted that currently it is only the civil society that is realizing this concept, and trying to impose change through boycotting campaigns and through withdrawal of investments in Israel.
The second paper was presented by Dr. Hussien Abou el-Namel on “Euro-Israeli Economic Relations and their Impact on the European Foreign Policy”. Abou el-Namel argued that the Euro-Israeli economic relations that have developed on a political basis, constitute today, i.e. sixty years later, major economic interests for both sides. These relations that had grown with political incentives, contribute in further strengthening the political relations and not the opposite; unless another balancing economic party presents a rival substitute: the Arab economy, Abou el-Namel argues, as he continues to dismiss this possibility for the current and foreseeable future. Finally, Abou el-Namel remarked that Europe has provided Israel with productive capacities while it merely offers the Palestinians consumer needs conditioned with political restraints; not to mention the vast difference in the nature, value and volume of the two offerings.
The third and last paper in this session was on “The Legal Dimension of the European Foreign Policy towards the Palestinian Issue” by Dr. Mahmud al-Mubarak.
The Second Session
The second session was entitled “The Foreign Policy of the Dominant Countries in the EU Concerning the Palestinian Issue” and moderated by Dr. Majdi Hammad. It also included three papers, the first of which is by Denis Sieffert on “France and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”. It was presented by Abdul-Hameed al-Kayyali. The paper started by briefing the history of the European foreign policy towards the Palestinian issue until the present, where Siefer argues that although we observe within the French society sympathy with the Palestinian rights, the new French diplomacy seems to move in the opposite direction especially with the arrival of Nicolas Sarkozi whose ideological lines concur with those of George W. Bush, i.e. supports Israel unconditionally.
The second paper was presented by Dr. Mohammad Abo Kazleh on “The German Foreign Policy towards the Palestinian Issue in Light of the Special relationship with Israel”. Abo Kazleh stressed that Germany is indeed seeking to expand its role and influence within the peace settlement efforts, in a way that reflects its capabilities as a major European power and a major aid contributor for the regional concerned sides. However, Germany seems incapable of achieving this until today; and according to Abo Kazleh, it won’t be capable until it abolishes its historical chains and adopt a more open policy towards the influencing sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict, namely the resistance ones. And until then, the German political role in the region and the conflict will remain –similar to that of the EU: marginal.
The third paper was by Mr. John McHugo on “The British Foreign Policy towards the Palestinian Issue with Special Reference to Resolution 242”. McHugo argued that regardless of the British hesitation to pressure Israel for abiding by international law, and regardless of the British government’s continuous disregard of the fact that the international law supports the Palestinian rights; Britain has always been obliged to take a position towards the developments of the Palestinian issue, and it has always took one that could be justified in terms of the international law, specifically regarding resolution 242.
The Third Session
The third session was entitled “Euro-Israeli Relations and their Impact on European Foreign Policy towards the Palestinian Issue” and moderated by Jawad al-Hamad. In this session two papers were presented, the first by Dr. Amine Hoteit on “Euro-Israeli Military and Security Relations and Agreements and Their Impact on the European Foreign Policy”. In his paper, Hoteit stressed that the European concern for Israel is the result of the interests that are achieved through it. Hoteit summed up the major lines currently pressuring the European-Israeli relations in three dimensions: the pursuit of an independent European policy, a regional policy in coordination with the United States, and the increasing European public dismay at the Israeli violations and practices that consequently pressures the political decision-making process.
Then was a paper by Dr. Daud Abdullah about “The Impact of the Israel Lobby on European Foreign Policy in Palestine.” Abdullah argued that the policies adopted by the European Union represent in many aspects a miniature of the policies adopted by individual European countries towards Palestine. The European countries did not only support Israel on political and diplomatic levels, but also they have intervened by military at critical stages of history based on the Zionists’ request. Abdullah reminded that it was the French who drafted the basis of the Israeli nuclear program, and that the Lobby indeed has achieved Herzl’s dream of Palestine when he said when he said, “We should there form a portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia…”.
The session was closed by the commentary of Alastair Crooke on the two papers.
The conference is supposed to resume its proceedings tomorrow Thursday, where also nine working papers will be discussed in three sessions. A final statement will be released at the conclusion, summarizing the major discussion points and suggesting recommendations.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, Beirut 3/11/2010