The recent declaration by the European Union (EU) to boycott any co-operation with companies located, operating or trading in West Bank and east Jerusalem highlights the historical fallacies we see regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict especially, as they pertain to settlements.
Moreover, it reveals the true colours of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and its supporters who have lobbied for this action in Europe.
As the European Union states:
2. The territories occupied by Israel since June 1967 comprise the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
3. The EU does not recognise Israel's sovereignty over any of the territories referred to in point 2 and does not consider them to be part of Israel's territory, irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law. The EU has made it clear that it will not recognise any changes to pre-1967 borders, other than those agreed by the parties to the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP). The EU's Foreign Affairs Council has underlined the importance of limiting the application of agreements with Israel to the territory of Israel as recognised by the EU.
Positively, Germany detached itself from the EU's statement stating correctly that the guidelines are "pure ideology and symbolic politics" and will not contribute to finding a solution to the conflict.
Historically, Israel was asked to withdraw "from territories occupied in the recent conflict" – the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The absence of the definite article "the" before "territories" was no accident: Issued a mere six months after Israel's astounding triumph over the concerted Arab attempt to obliterate the Jewish state, the resolution reflected acceptance by the Security Council of the existential threat posed by the 1949 armistice line, memorably described by Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban as "Auschwitz borders."
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) had already negotiated with seven Israeli prime ministers without any pre-requisites — freezing of settlement construction was never a roadblock. Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were made possible by a continuing agreement to disagree about Israeli construction of Jewish homes in Jewish neighbourhoods outside the pre-1967 line in Eastern Jerusalem.
However, we have now witnessed drastic shift in American foreign policy which dovetails into the EU boycott. Despite the fact that the "Arab Spring" has proven that the Middle East has anything to do with solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after securing his presidency Barack Obama altered his tone towards Israel and adopted an active policy of outreach to, and appeasement of, the Palestinian Authority, calling on Israel to halt all settlement construction, including expansion to accommodate the "natural growth" of families living in these communities.
This effectively forced Abbas to go along with the policy; the leader of the PA could not ask for less from Israel than the American president. As Abbas noted, "President Obama stated in Cairo that Israel must stop all construction activities in the settlements. Could we demand less than that?"
Now, the Obama administration via John Kerry's renewed attempts to bring the two parties together has approved what the PA has defined as Palestinian prerogatives — a state on the 1967 border, and the Palestinian narrative — that Israel is the oppressor and the Palestinians the oppressed in essence endorsing the "occupation" fallacy that assumes Israeli fault. Furthermore, it gives the illusion that the settlements are the core of Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the biggest stumbling block towards peace.
The centrality of the settlements is really an empty-suit, as it deflects attention from the real issues that are truly obstructing a negotiated settlement. There is little debate over the fact that – should a peace agreement be completed – there will be a redistribution of land. Chiefly, most of the bargaining is about whether these redistributions will take the shape of a total phased Israeli withdrawal, or an exchange of land annexing the more populous Israeli towns to Israel for other land in the Jordan Valley or Negev desert. But this is left to the parties to decide not imposed by outside forces.
All and all, while those who advocate may claim to want peace between Israelis and Palestinians and that boycotts will engender peace are a farce. Ultimately, their goal is to question the sovereignty of the Jewish state and its existence at large. Daniel Patrick Moynihan observation that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts" could not be more pertinent as it relates to how the world views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Finally, we need to take a close look in the mirror and face the fact that peace and security are not going come from the traditional "two-state solution." Absent that understanding there cannot and will not be a real discussion about the secure boundaries Israel needs to maintain in order to achieve peace and security.