9th Annual ECI Conference in Brussels coincided with start of Operation Pillar of Defence
- Ashton acknowledges Israel´s right to self defence

Brussels, 15th November, 2012-  On the first day of Operation Pillar of Defence, the European Coalition for Israel met for its 9th Annual Policy Conference in the European Parliament in Brussels. The meeting opened with one minute of silence for the three Israelis killed in rocket fire from Gaza. In a statement to the new Permanent Israeli Representative to the EU, David Walzer, ECI Director Tomas Sandell expressed his condolences on behalf of ECI and reiterated Israel’s right to protect its civilians. The EU High Representative for Security Affairs and Foreign Policy, Catherine Ashton, issued a similar statement saying: “The rocket attacks by Hamas and other factions in Gaza which began this current crisis, are totally unacceptable for any government and must stop, Israel has the right to protect its population from these kinds of attacks.”

Baroness Ashton, who was in Cairo on Thursday, was represented at the Annual Conference by Managing Director Hugues Mingarelli, who presented the current status in EU–Israeli relations. He portrayed the relations as ”good and dynamic but conditional on progress in the peace process in the Middle East.”
He was politely rebutted by Roland Freudenstein from the Centre for European Studies, who reminded the EU representative that ”it takes two to tango!”, indicating that the Palestinians are misusing the situation to stay away from the negotiating table in order to punish Israel.

All panellists agreed that a Palestinian statehood bid at the UN is counterproductive, as the only way to peace is through negotiation. Conference host, MEP Hannu Takkula, said that the problems in the Middle East will not disappear, even if the Palestinians get their own state, so  long as their overall aspirations are to ”liberate all of Palestine.” He was seconded by ECI Brussels Director, Andrew Tucker, who reminded the delegates  that the UN Partition Plan of  1947 was rejected by Israel´s neighbours, and that the day is still referred to as a ”Day of Nakba” (Day of tragedy) indicating  that the existence of a Jewish state as such is the core problem.

A new report by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, Hidden Injustices, examining the Palestinian governing authorities through the lens of international human rights standards, was presented to the conference by Chief Council Calev Myers.
According to research conducted by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, the Palestinians have received an estimated 25 times more aid, per capita, than European citizens under the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction and economic recovery of Europe following WWII (taking into account currency inflation).

The report highlights the human rights violations regularly committed by Palestinian government authorities: arbitrary detention, torture and cruel punishment, violation of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, violation of freedom of religion and minority rights, and the violation of the rights of women and children.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Sandell stated that “the billions of euros of aid given to the Palestinian governing authorities should be contingent on a demonstrated commitment to human rights reforms and increased financial accountability and transparency.

“EU tax payers as well as the recipients, the Palestinian people, have the right to ask why this amount of funding has not made more of a difference to their daily quality of life.
“ECI is not suggesting that the EU should stop supporting the Palestinian people, but we have a right, as tax payers, to know that the funds are being spent in accordance with their true objectives and are not being mismanaged or diverted.  But more importantly, the Palestinian people have the right to be protected from corruption, nepotism and mismanagement by their own leaders.

“If the EU wants to be a serious partner in the Middle East peace process, it  needs to start this process in Brussels, by allowing more transparency and better accounting of the aid given to the PA”, Sandell concluded.

The 9th Annual Policy Conference of the European Coalition for Israel brought together delegates from across Europe as well as from Africa, North America and Asia. The three day conference ended on Saturday.

European Coalition for Israel
P.O. Box 189
FI-00181 Helsinki, Finland
Tel.: + 358 9 6948056

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