March 11, 2010
In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict
Members of the European Parliament have backtracked from their plan to pass a resolution demanding implementation of the Goldstone report, in response to pressure from European Jewish leaders, Haaretz has learned.After leaders of all the major EP parties had agreed on the wording of a draft demanding implementation of the controversial document – which accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza last year and proposed prosecuting Israeli officials in the International Criminal Court – the European Union’s legislative body was scheduled to vote on the measure Wednesday. But Tuesday, leaders of the parties backed away from the draft, after the president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, warned them that adopting it would seriously harm EU-Israel ties. “It appears inconceivable that while the United Nations itself hasn’t yet officially adopted this report, the European Parliament, in this motion for a resolution, calls for and demands its implementation,” he wrote in a letter sent to the heads of major EP parties. The joint motion for the resolution was removed from the plenary session’s agenda after the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) blocked it. “The European Jewish Congress played an important role in blocking the legitimization of the Goldstone report,” an official from the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. Instead of voting on one joint resolution, the parliamentarians may now vote on six different proposed resolutions and stick with the one that gets the most votes. But the draft expected to receive the most votes is that of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), the largest grouping. Instead of demanding the report’s implementation, it calls for both parties, Israel and Hamas, to investigate accusations of war crimes. By contrast, the Socialist Party’s proposed resolution calls for lifting the “blockade” on Gaza, which it says is a “key aspect” of efforts to achieve a “just and lasting peace.” According to Kantor, if the European Parliament adopted the Goldstone report, it would give the document its most meaningful international endorsement yet. That would expose the EU’s “two-faced attitude to Israel” and constitute a “strong contradiction” to the EU’s claim to be a friend of Israel, he said. Arie Zuckerman, a senior European Jewish Congress executive, said such a vote would be “one of the parliament’s worst votes on foreign policy.” Kantor visited Israel last week to discuss the upcoming European Parliament vote with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and other Israeli officials. The congress – an umbrella body that represents 42 of Europe’s 46 Jewish communities – has been “intensively” lobbying key figures in the Brussels-based parliament to prevent the report’s adoption, said Kantor, who lives in Moscow. The United Nations Human Rights Council, known for its unbridled criticism of Israel, adopted Judge Richard Goldstone’s report in October, and the General Assembly followed suit in November. But the UN did not call for immediate implementation of the report’s recommendations; instead, it urged the parties to conduct their own investigations into Goldstone’s findings. EU member states have so far been divided in their approach to the Goldstone report in international forums. Italy and Holland voted in the General Assembly against adopting the report, while France and Britain abstained. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, meanwhile, has praised it. But Wednesday’s European Parliament vote will differ fundamentally from previous votes in other international organizations, as it will divide along party lines rather than by country. Zuckerman said the Socialist Party appears set to vote in favor of adopting the report, along with other left-wing movements. The vote is being held at the request of the Green Party. “We will be working to the last minute,” Zuckerman said.