GCC and EU could renew push for Palestinian-Israeli peace

Leadership vacuum creates opening for renewal of efforts through greater co-operation on long-running dispute, says NGO

Palestinians protest Israel's annexation of Jordan Valley and West Bank

Palestinians protest Israel's annexation of Jordan Valley and West Bank
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The Gulf Co-operation Council and European Union can seize on the lack of confidence in the US peace plan for the Middle East and revitalise efforts to win peace for Palestinians and Israel, according to a major European institute promoting ties between the two sides.

The Bussola Institute argued in its latest publication that America’s reduced level of commitment to the region presented an opportunity for the EU and the GCC to work together on fresh approaches to breaking 70 years of impasse on solving the dispute.

But the opportunity comes at a time of heightened uncertainty for the region over Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank, which have been roundly condemned, perhaps most vocally by GCC states including the United Arab Emirates.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has already come out in favour of exploring a new European-led peace initiative and the institute called on the bloc to collaborate with initiatives already put forward by GCC countries, including Saudi Arabia’s Arab Peace Initiative, to set a framework for progress.

In its publication, the institute explores several avenues through which greater co-operation between the GCC and EU could provide fertile ground for a renewal of international efforts for peace.

The two bodies should push for greater reform in the Palestinian leadership, the institute suggests, and said their significant existing aid contributions give them an advantage over other countries in the Arab and Western world.

The US peace deal, the institute argues, provides little in the way of a workable solution to questions over the rights of refugees, Jerusalem, border security and territorial rights but the GCC and EU, it says, both have the capacity to put forward ideas on these critical questions.

Both international groups should work to “galvanise” the international community, including Russia, China and regional players, and build momentum behind the new approach.

The EU and the GCC should also capitalise on recent shifts in Israeli domestic politics, the institute said.

The formation of a unity government in Israel because of the coronavirus pandemic could provide a further opportunity for the EU to “engage with its allies in the GCC and Israel’s centre-left” to lay the groundwork for reopening negotiations.

A further recommendation made by the institute was that the EU “must not shy away from challenging Israeli policies towards Gaza and the West Bank,” and should at a “minimum” press the Israelis to end the blockade and rein in their military action in the Palestinian territories.

The institute maintained that the GCC and the EU were the only force capable of filling the vacuum of leadership left by declining US interest in the region as well as by the apparent failure of its “Deal of the Century”.