"The European Union cannot and will not want to play a real role in the formulation of the peace plan"
Efraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad
What does the European Union believe it stands to gain from the Trump peace plan?
The European Union (EU) is currently undergoing a complex crisis due to pressures applied from several directions. The first is the decision made by the United Kingdom, a major and central country in the union, to quit the EU. The second is a growing disagreement between leading countries in the Union on a wide range of critical subjects, which makes it harder to consolidate an official and coherent EU foreign policy. The third is the internal political weakening of key governments, such as in Germany and Italy, which undermines the capacity of the EU to act on the world stage. And the fourth is increasing disagreements between EU institutions and the United States and Russia, the two most relevant powers in this context.
Against this backdrop, the EU's need to focus on finding solutions for its crises will fairly weaken its capability and willingness to consolidate a coherent position on the Trump peace plan. A peace deal sponsored by the Trump administration will not grant the EU any advantages or achievements, and given the situation described above, I expect that the EU will not want to – nor will it be able to – play a significant role at this time. The most the EU is likely to do is to publicly support the plan, if it is also supported by Russia.
Photo: Yaacov Sahar, GPO
What does the EU fear it might lose?
The EU as an entity, as well as its member states, is not afraid to lose anything from the plan because it has no assets that can be harmed from its publication or implementation. However, if Trump's move succeeds and Palestinians and Arab countries will prove willing to proceed with it, the EU could face American pressure – which it fears – to contribute to the plan's implementation, both on a financial and an operational level. Given the various issues already on its plate, the EU will do anything within its power to avoid commitments that will further strain its budget
What can the EU contribute to the promotion of the plan?
If the EU wishes to contribute to the plan's success, it could provide its official support to the American effort, thus granting it an international touch. Such support will be important if Russia also decides to do so. An American-Russian agreement to join forces in the formulation of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement will create a new international reality, and the EU may be very happy to lend its name and prestige to this effort.
Which obstacles is European Union liable to mount, and how can it sabotage the process?
If it is accepted by the Palestinians, the EU will not be able or willing to disrupt the implementation of the plan. If the Palestinians will reject Trump’s formula, notwithstanding pressures from the U.S. and perhaps Russia to accept it, the EU can assist the Palestinians and put pressure on Israel by announcing that the new political situation created in the territory requires the reopening of existing agreements between the EU and Israel. Examples include the Association Agreement and the recent Science and Technology Agreement.
The EU could argue that the agreements and their terms must now apply to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, simultaneously and under the same political principles. Israel will find it very difficult to object to such an approach, as it does not refer at all to its security concerns. The EU could also insist that the terms of entry into EU countries will also apply to citizens of the Palestinian "semi-state". Such an approach, in general, could cause Israel severe damage.
Efraim Halevy served in the Mossad for over 40 years, in both field and headquarters positions. He commanded two operational divisions and served as director of the organization between 1998-2002. Halevy also served as Israel's ambassador to the EU between 1996-1998, and was head of the Center for Strategic Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.