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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mark Mazower: Europe should use its leverage to lean on Israel

Historian Mark Mazower is a professor at Columbia University and at a College in the UK. He is the author of a History of 20th century Europe ("The Dark Continent") and of a captivating history (1400-1950) of multicultural Salonika (Thessaloniki, Greece).

In today's his call for a new, more active European role in the Middle East: Europe should use its leverage to lean on Israel, that ends with (numbering and bolds are mine):

"What would a more ambitious European stance on the Middle East look like?
  1. Beyond the current Lebanon crisis, it would prioritise the need for an Israel/Palestine settlement and would seek to convert its economic power into diplomatic clout. With its massive humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, the EU already has considerable leverage there.
  2. In addition, its significant trade relationship with Israel should allow it to lean much harder on Israeli governments than it – or anyone else – has done for a long time. This requires urgent institutional reform within the Union itself, in particular overcoming the traditional rivalries between the Council of Ministers and the Commission that still stymie the emergence of a common foreign and security policy.
What, though, is the alternative? Stripped of its rhetoric, US policy currently holds political and economic development in the Arab world hostage to a peace settlement with Israel without ever putting sufficient pressure on its ally to effect this.
If Europe does not recognise its own pressing need to change this dynamic, the alternative is likely to be instability, regional repression and economic stagnation on its doorstep for the indefinite future."
Indeed: The failure of the American-Israeli intervention in Lebanon, designed as a further step to create a "New Middle East", is, after the failed occupation of Iraq, the failed "democratization" diplomacy aimed at Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and after the failing efforts to isolate Iran and Syria, a not-to-be-missed opening for Europe to step in.
No more as a divided and subordinated reserve of allies, but as a responsible and powerful bloc that protects the vital interests of its inhabitants.
For the Europeans, there is much more and much longer at stake, than for the USA.
It is all happening on our doorsteps. And it will last much longer for us, than for the Americans. Deep into the coming after-oil aera.
That is why the August 2 Los Angeles speech of Tony Blair ("value change" replaces "regime change") is so hollow. Blair pleaded the same solutions as Marzower does, but he takes no responsability for building the necessary European bloc. And no concrete proposal for common action is to be found in his speech.
And what to say about the French? Their option boils down to a "classic" French imperialist restoration of the Lebanon inter-community balance, with the Maronites in the role of, let us say, the Iraqian Sunnis before 2003. "Disarming" the Shiites is an impossibility and is rejected, even by their most rabiate Lebanese enemies, the Druzes and their leader Walid Jumblatt.
The French got the room to play that role, only because it presents to the Americans another way (the Israelian having temporarily failed) to possibly isolate the Shiites.
The most daring European proposal, I heard of, was Daniel Cohn-Bendit's idea of sending former German minister Fischer as an European envoy to the region, in order to "secure the borders of Israel". As Dany knows, a secure border has to be secure for both sides of it, to be really secure. That means....: "leaning on Israel" in order to get secure borders for Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and ... Palestine. A huge task. An effort that needs a seamless cooperation of the EU and its allies (Turkey, for instance).
As this condition is far from existing, friend Joschka has apparently said "no" to the invitation.
But there is still some room for less spectacular moves in the good direction.
A first step could be a strong mandate for the Middle East to Xavier Solana, EU external policy coordinator. Another one, would be a common EU command over the UN forces in Southern Lebanon. No French "Alleingang".

I wonder, if somebody is going to do something with Mazower's plea.

(Crossposted at "Legal Alien @ NY")

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