First things first

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

THE FIRST order of business for the new Israeli Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be a determined and audacious bid to have Israel join the European Union. Israel's success in this endeavour would mean the accomplishment of a major feat. It would mean added security and economic prosperity for the Jewish state. No wonder Netanyahu is making this objective a primary goal of his foreign policy. Now that Israel feels that it is winning its war against the Palestinians, its eyes are turning to long-term objectives that could serve as an insurance policy for its security and continued existence. Although Israel is not a European country in terms of geography, it could apply the argument used by Cyprus — which is also non-European geographically — to win support for its application for membership in the EU. Israel may argue that it is Western and European when it comes to culture and political ideology. Priding itself as a Western style democracy, Israel may succeed in wooing European support for membership. Should this happen, the Jewish state would end up with both US and EU support.

Unlike Israel, Turkey is facing stiff resistance to its application for EU membership on account of its Islamic roots and because it is alleged that its human rights record remains at a level below what Europe demands of its member states. If the Turkish precedence is applied to Israel, we would find that Israel's human rights record is appalling given the extent of its crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since its creation. Until Israel shows that it is willing to observe and apply international standards on human rights and humanitarian law, Europe would be well advised to reject its application for membership in its union. On this basis, Israel's application for EU membership should not even be considered until the Palestinians are able to exercise their right to self-determination and live freely on their own national soil. An occupying power may not be a member of the EU.