The leniency with which the European Union (EU) judges Palestinians’ reforms compared to the strictness of EU demands for reform by the Turks reveal Europeans’ duplicity and lack of integrity, and should disqualify the European Union from playing any significant role in the Middle East peace process, under the guise of being an honest broker.
EU hypocrisy is undoubtedly noticed when one examines and compares the own benchmarks of the EU as applied to a country-candidate [for example Turkey] waiting to join the European Union on the one-hand, and the benchmarks the EU is applying toward the Palestinians who seek to have a state, on the other hand.
European yardsticks for Palestinians, a hostile society, joining the Family of Nations amounts to praise for fabricated non-existent reforms and calls to drop the required incremental progress from the Roadmap. An end to violence and democratic reform that Palestinians have not even begun is tolerable. All of this in order to forge the way for immediate establishment of a Palestinian state, one which will endanger the very survival of a free and democratic Israel.
The historic decision of the European Commission in mid-December 2004 that Turkey is now ready to begin full negotiations on joining the European Union is an excellent opportunity to benchmark the way Europeans, members of the quartet, judge Turks, and how they judge Palestinians.
Keep in mind the goals and the ramifications of each: The Turks’ goal is membership in the European Union – a political union that the Europeans already say will have an iron-clad reversibility clause for Turkey if it fails to live up to its promises.
The Palestinians’ goal is sovereignty as a State – status for which there is no reversibility mechanism if Palestine turns into a rogue state. Logically, the yardsticks of judging readiness should be at least equal, if not more stringent for Palestinians, a society that consciously and purposely sacrifices its own youth for political gain and tactical advantage, with a leadership that champions and praises suicide bombers.
For 50 years – since 1963, Turkey has knocked on Europe’s door requesting membership in the EU. The Europeans, however, have been in no rush to invite a Muslim country into their midst, even if it is the most westernized and most democratic Muslim country in the Middle East. Although Turkey is already a strategic partner in NATO and some 4 million of its citizens are peaceful and productive guest workers in Europe, these facts seem not to persuade the European Union.
Only 36 years later, in 1999, was Turkey accepted as a candidate, with no timeframe for actual negotiations. At the close of 2004, after five years of far-reaching Turkish constitutional and legal reform, the EU concluded that Turkey had reached a point where negotiations could even commence “under certain conditions.”But it is far too premature to break out the champagne.
Negotiations are expected to take ten to fifteen years, and even then “the outcome is not a foregone conclusion,” declared Romano Prodi, then President of the European Commission.
The first yardstick for progress is to meet the Copenhagen Political Criteria adopted in June 1993 by the EU, which states:
“Membership criteria require that the candidate country must have achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities.”
Olli Rehn, then the member of the European Commission responsible for EU Enlargement, made it clear in an address to the European Parliament that there are no ‘discounts’ for Turkey.
“These criteria, the fundamental values on which the European Union is based, are not subject to negotiation” and [there will be] “a suspension mechanism in case of serious and persistent breach of democratic principles.”
The fundamental freedoms Rehn cites include “women’s rights, trade union rights, minority rights, and problems faced by non-Muslim religious communities” and “consolidation and broadening” of legal reforms including “alignment of law enforcement and judicial practice with the spirit of the reforms” and a host of other demands. In fact, Europe demands a complete ‘makeover,’ from women’s rights to recycling of trash.
Like Turkey’s appeal for EU membership, realization of Palestinian aspirations was supposed to be performance-based. The timetable embedded in the Oslo Accords for establishment of limited Palestinian self-determination – internal self-rule – was five years (envisioned to be consummated in 1999). The Oslo Process hinged on the Palestinian leadership abandoning armed struggle and negotiating an end to the conflict, and establishing the infrastructure for enlightened self-rule.
This proviso was never met. The latest scheme – the three-phase Roadmap plan adopted by the Quartet in May 2003 – speaks of full independence for Palestinians within three years (envisioned by 2005). Stage II, which supported establishment of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty within a 6 month period hinged on compliance with Stage I, which demands “unconditional stoppage of violence” and steps towards comprehensive reform of the Palestinian Authority.
Romano Prodi’s plea for:
“Profound reflection and clear precautions” in Europe, saying it is imperative for Europeans to prevent Turks from “weakening the structure we have been building for over 50 years.”
The same sensitivity and prudence that the EU takes toward the Turks, and their effect on European safety and stability is hardly evidenced when it comes to dangers that the Palestinians pose towards weakening the structure that Israel has built for nearly 64 years, a structure that has propelled it from the “developing nation” status it held in the early 1950s, to membership among the “important emerging economies” today.
Turks have been scrutinized by the EU to evaluate Turkey’s readiness for membership in the European Union – that is, its ability to live side-by-side with England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and other EU members without Turks being a detriment to their neighbors.
Parallel to this process, the EU has been evaluating the Palestinian Authority’s readiness for statehood – that is, Palestinians’ ability to live side-by-side with Israel without being jeopardy to their neighbor.
While the goals are different, the EU has declared in both cases that the realization of the two goals both require the respective Middle Eastern society to undergo far-reaching reform, to adopt western values and western standards of conduct.
Eli E. Hertz
Eli E. Hertz is the president of Myths and Facts, an organization devoted to research and publication of information regarding US interests in the world and particularly in the Middle East. Mr. Hertz served as Chairman of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting.