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Only the EU needs its “irrelevant” peace plan

EU diplomats argue European proposals for an international peace summit do not lead to peace in the Middle East, but only reconcile quarrelling Europeans, according to Politico.

Leaders of the 27 EU countries have called for another “international peace conference” to resolve the prolonged military conflict between Israel and Hamas. However, a week after the call was announced at a meeting of leaders in Brussels, the key questions, venue, participants and objectives, remain unanswered.

A spokesman for the Israeli mission to the EU stated that they were “not in a position to say if we would attend or not because we don’t know yet what it would actually mean.” He also claimed that none of the officials have so far contacted him on the initiative.

The leaders’ uncertainty reveals the EU’s eagerness to prove its relevance and unity over the Middle East conflict, as evidenced by officials’ inability to choose between calling for a unified humanitarian “pause” or multiple “pauses” in hostilities during last week’s summit.

Some diplomats stated that EU leaders were simply “navel gazing,” playing to domestic audiences inflamed by the conflict instead of trying to establish peace.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has been one of the most ambitious supporters of a peace conference, claiming it could provide a solution to decades of conflict. The Spanish socialist hopes the move would provide a “political and diplomatic solution to the conflict” between Israel and Palestine. In 1991, Spain held the Madrid conference that launched the Oslo talks on the region.

European Council President Charles Michel declared that the agreement to hold the peace conference “clearly signals our political will, showing unanimity, showing that we are united and ready to play a strong role with other partners.”

But other EU countries are more critical, with two diplomats from the bloc stating that Sánchez had urged domestic audiences to enlist the support of left-wing pro-Palestinian parties as he sought to form a new governing coalition in the coming months after a failed election.

“This is a typical intra-EU discussion which has nothing to do with the reality on the ground. We understand that Sànchez wants to hold an international press conference for domestic reasons. But let’s be real: the U.S. has impact and some Gulf countries do, but we don’t.”

It’s the classical hubris of the EU to think that we have a role to play here.

European leaders wasted five hours discussing the wording of their statement last week. In the meantime, Hamas launched missiles into Israel and Israeli airstrikes continued targeting the Gaza Strip, while Israeli tanks began a ground operation.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the peace conference “a good signal” on Friday, but immediately added that “such an initiative can only work if everyone else who is also important participates, so that it becomes a reality.”

In other words, any peace conference is pointless without the participation of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other relevant players.

A spokesman for the Israeli mission proposed to “wait and see what this entails,” emphasising that the country is focused on “eliminating” Hamas.

Our main focus now is the military organisation. We want to destroy Hamas, we want to release all the hostages, this is where all our resources and headspace is at the moment.

An attempt at a peace conference in Cairo without Israeli participation and with a local ambassador from the United States failed to make much of an impact. Pierre Vimont, a former special envoy for an earlier French initiative on a Middle East peace initiative, argued that EU leaders should focus on peace rather than promoting exclusively European initiatives.

“It should be a regional initiative to which Europe would give its full support … Europe can bring creative ideas and display its own diplomatic agility in support of Arab countries. But the regional actors should be the ones to convene a summit.”

The bloc’s helplessness regarding the Israel-Hamas war is confirmed by the emergence of open rifts between Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council chief Michel and the EU’s top diplomat, Borrell.

The EU as entity will not be able to carry such a conference due to internal disagreements, but also because it lacks credibility.

“The US has no credibility whatsoever due to its unwavering support for Israel. A solution might be found in a coalition of EU member states with more historical awareness of the issue, such as France, Spain and Ireland, combined with Turkey and Saudi Arabia as regional powers.”


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