The contradictions of the Middle East crisis were on full display this week. Terror will not be defeated militarily, and criticism will have no effect, says Rainer Hermann of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.
The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been recently overshadowed by new conflicts and wars in the Middle East. But during the past week, two events have reminded us that this decadeslong conflict is still smoldering on.
On the same day that Israel killed a military leader from the group Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (PIJ) and the group retaliated by firing rockets at Israel, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) published its verdict on whether Israeli products exported from the occupied territories must be labeled as such in the EU.
Gaza — A hotbed for terrorism
Both events shine a light on two reasons the conflict remains unresolved: The situation in Gaza, which has become a breeding ground for terrorism, and also the 600.000 Jewish settlers, who have built residences on what is internationally recognized as territory belonging to the Palestinian National Authority mainly in the West Bank area.
The targeted killing of Baha Abu al-Ata, who apparently played an integral role in planning terror attacks in Israel, showed the world just how precise Israel’s intelligence services and military can be. Israel can also rest assured that it will find broad international support for its actions, for no state merely sits by and watches as its people are subjected to acts of terrorism.
But terrorism in Gaza will not be vanquished militarily. The Gaza Strip is almost entirely cut off from the world, and 80% of its 2 million residents are dependent upon international assistance for survival. There are few places in the world where unemployment, especially youth unemployment, is higher than in Gaza. Moreover, the area is one of the most densely populated in the region. Unless life there improves dramatically, the business of terror will continue to blossom.
ECJ bolsters the EU's wobbly foreign policy
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision on labeling products from the occupied territories is not primarily about consumer protection, the basis on which the judges justified their ruling. Rather, it bolsters EU foreign policy, which sees Israeli settlements as a breach of international law and an impediment to the so-called two-state solution.
The decision is not the boycott some opponents are trying to brand it as. Wine from the occupied territories can still be exported to the EU — it just needs a different label. But the decision also does nothing to put pressure on Israel to change its ways because the volume of goods exported from the settlements is simply too small.
For the Europeans, the most important thing the verdict seems to have done is allow them to pat themselves on the back while proclaiming their moral superiority. Still, it has done nothing to influence Israeli policies or the country’s stance on settlements.
This article was edited after initial publication to rectify a translation mistake. Rainer Hermann's original German text was factually correct.