Europe seeking role in postwar Gaza

Aug 29, 2014, 2:42 AM EDT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
AFP/Getty Images

European nations are offering to help enforce the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, a scenario that could provide key international backing for maintaining the peace and step up the pressure on Hamas militants to relinquish power. AP writes:

The European plan remains vague, and it is unclear whether Israel or the Palestinians will agree. But a European presence in Gaza could go a long way toward meeting two key demands: the Palestinians' insistence on freer movement in and out of the territory, and the Israeli requirement that Hamas be kept in check.

French President Francois Hollande laid out the case for European involvement on Thursday, telling international diplomats that Europe could help oversee the destruction of tunnels used by Hamas militants and monitor the territory's border crossings with Israel and Egypt.

"It is necessary to move toward an end to the blockade and a demilitarization of the territory," he said, indicating that international supervision could help pave the way for a return of Hamas' rival, the Palestinian Authority, to Gaza.

President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the authority, is eager to regain a foothold in Gaza, seven years after Hamas violently overran the territory. With the international community shunning Hamas as a terrorist group, Abbas would be likely to operate Gaza's borders and oversee internationally funded reconstruction efforts.

The French proposal, Hollande said, would "finally give the Palestinian Authority the means to respond to the humanitarian crisis and to begin reconstruction."

The recent conflict has created a backlash against Israel in certain corners of Europe. The New York Times writes:

The war in Gaza and its aftermath have inflamed opinion in Europe and, experts and analysts say, are likely to increase support for the movement to boycott, disinvest from and sanction Israel, known as BDS.

“We entered this war in Gaza with the perception that the Israeli government is not interested in reaching peace with the Palestinians,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli analyst at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a private university. “Now, after the casualties and the destruction, I’m very worried about the impact this could have on Israel. It could make it very easy for the BDS campaign to isolate Israel and call for more boycotts.”

Gilead Sher and Einav Yogev, in a paper for the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, warn that Gaza means Israel pays “a much heavier price in public opinion and in erosion of support for its positions in negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Along with reports of “familiar anti-Semitic attacks on Jews,” they said, “the movement to boycott Israel is expanding politically and among the public.” Daniel Levy of the European Council on Foreign Relations points to the debate over halting arms exports to Israel, which has been given new momentum in Britain and Spain by the asymmetry of the Gaza war.

“You’re beginning to see the translation of public sympathy into something politically meaningful,” he said.

He noted two tracks — the governmental one, which distinguishes between Israel and the occupied territories, and the social one of academic, commercial and artistic boycotts. But for all the new attention around the BDS movement, the economic impact has been small, experts say. The European Union, which has been looked to for leadership on the issue, does not support the idea.

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