Europe’s Diplomacy Is a Positive Development

Quietly, and without fanfare or even much press notice, Europe has re-entered the diplomatic arena of the Middle East. In recent weeks, Turkey has announced that it is hosting talks in Ankara between Israel and Syria aimed at achieving a peace treaty in which Israel would agree to withdraw from a demilitarized Golan Heights in exchange for a meaningful peace, which could include a provision that Syria stop supporting the Shia terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon. More recently, French President Nicolas Sarkozy confired that he wants to host a private meeting in Paris between Syrian President Bashar Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, while the two leaders attend a July 13 conference of European and Mediterranean countries, staying on for Bastille Day on July 14. In yet another move, the European Union has agreed to upgrade its relations with Israel. E.U. foreign ministers announced last week that the 27-nation bloc would improve its marketing and policymaking ties with Israel, which the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports would satisfy “a long-standing request for Jerusalem.” In announcing the upgrade in relations, the E.U. foreign ministers stated, “The European Union is determined to develop a closer partnership with the State of Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was scheduled to seal the deal in later talks with her European counterparts in Luxembourg, the JTA reports.

For the past 30 or more years, Middle East diplomacy has been dominated by the United States. Successive U.S. presidents, from Jimmy Carter through George W. Bush, have tried with varying degrees of success to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians and its other neighbors. Carter was able to achieve the historic breakthrough between Israel and Egypt which resulted in the peace treaty signed on the White House lawn in 1979. Later, President Bill Clinton in 1993 hosted the signing of the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which regrettably fell victim to the duplicity of then-Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, who repeatedly spurned peace with Israel in favor of continued terrorist violence. In 1994, Clinton was able to achieve a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, during the last years of the reign of the moderate King Hussein.


Prior to the U.S. dominance in Middle East diplomacy, the region was a virtual chess board in the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union, which meant that each time there was a conflict in the Middle East, the potential existed for expansion into a global confrontation, which fortunately never occurred.

It has been over 60 years, with the withdrawal of Great Britain from its Mandate in Palestine in 1948, since Europe and Great Britain have been extensively involved in Middle East diplomacy. In the period between the two world wars, both Britain and France were the dominant Great Powers in the region, and many of the decisions made by those governments affected the borders and boundaries of the nations in the region, including Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Iraq.

The return of European nations and the decision by the European Union collective of nations to Middle East diplomacy should be seen as a constructive development. If Turkey or France can achieve a real breakthrough toward peace between Israel and Syria, it would be just as welcome as if it were accomplished directly by the United States. All nations benefit from peace agreements in that troubled region of the world. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is the European Union’s official negotiator for the “Quartet” seeking to implement the stalled “Road Map” to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He has played a constructive role in urging the parties to come to an agreement for a two-state solution.

The United States will always play a key role in Middle East diplomacy, but its status as the “world’s only superpower” does not confer upon it a monopoly of creative diplomacy. It is also not healthy for Israel to have “all of its eggs” in one diplomatic basket. It is in Israel’s interests to have cordial and constructive relations not only with the United States, but also the nations of Europe, Asia and Latin America. The American Jewish community and other supporters of Israel should welcome the closer and more cordial ties and constructive diplomatic and financial contacts between Europe and Israel, even as we strongly reaffirm the historic positive ties between Israel and the United States. We hope that our government will welcome and support the supplementary contibutions being made toward an improved situation in the Middle East by European nations and the European Union.