ABSTRACT

Introduction After almost five decades of European involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian (I-P) conflict, only one truthful statement seems to hold: the European Union (EU) Member States agree on the two-state solution but there remain significant divisions as to how to achieve this objective. The chapter argues that the dominance of the United States (US) as a third party mediator throughout the period under consideration has both enabled as well as hindered European involvement. On top of that, the European approach towards the I-P conflict has not appeared credible in several instances due to the internal divisions among the Member States of the European Community (EC)/EU. The degree of involvement of the EC/EU in the I-P has gradually risen, but this has gone hand in hand with the EC/EU’s ability to tie its preferences to the US. The more the EU distances itself from the US, the less influential it is. At the same time, however, by tying its preferences to the US, the EU has compromised over its normative values, thus giving less credibility to its approach. In terms of involvement, the EC/EU has made substantial progress concerning the I-P conflict. In the early days of the Cold War, the EC was a mere declaratory actor. In the post-Cold War period it was recognised as an economic actor by the US and in the post 9/11 period it was also recognised as a diplomatic actor. While the EU has become more involved, its influence has been limited by external factors such as the US dominance as a third party and internal divisions among its Member States. The chapter proceeds as follows: the first section reviews the formation of a European stance during the Cold War. This is important as it highlights a number of themes that would set the European foreign policy towards the I-P conflict in the years to come. First, the EC’s commitment to the principle of Palestinian self-determination, the commitment to Palestinian state-building and the need to work towards a two-state solution. In other words, the EC set the normative tone of its engagement during the Cold War, but at the time it was not recognised as a player by any of the parties involved. The second section is about the European foreign policy towards the I-P conflict during the 1990s. The most important change that occurred in the post-Cold War period was that the US welcomed the

EU’s new approach to the I-P conflict, based on economic but not diplomatic involvement. The third section is about the post 9/11 period and it focuses, in particular, on the work of the Quartet for Peace. In the post 9/11 period there was another important change, as the EU had the chance to work in conflict resolution, it was welcomed by the US into the Quartet and there was a significant level of diplomatic convergence between the US and the EU for the first time. In the post 9/11 period, the EU had the chance to become more influential as its diplomatic involvement appeared to be desired by the US. However, during this period, the EU took some important decisions that contradicted its normative power. The last section reviews developments in recent years and it focuses, in particular, on the UN vote in September 2011 to upgrade Palestine to nonmember observer state. The evidence shows that the EU lost another important opportunity to be more influential as it showed significant divisions among its members.