Call For EU To Get Tough In The Middle East

16 November 2006
SNP Europe Spokesman Alyn Smith MEP has called for a review of theEU-Israel association agreement in order to pressure the Israeli government into meaningful peace talks with the Palestinians.

Mr Smith, who recently returned from a fact finding mission to Gaza, made the call in the European Parliament's debate on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East in advance of next week's summit on the issue.

The EU funds a number of humanitarian projects, though has refused to deal with the Hamas led Palestinian government, working instead through the Office of the President, Mahmoud Abbas.

Speaking after the debate Mr Smith said:

"The situation in Gaza in particular almost defies description, it is difficult to talk about what I saw there and sound rational.

"I abhor violence on all sides and the Palestinians are not helping themselves, but their systematic oppression by the Israelis can only lead to more and more violence.

"We saw the checkpoints, the walls, the barbed wire and fear behind which the Palestinians are imprisoned, and it is quite clear that the current policy of the Israeli government is exacerbating the problem.

"Left to their own devices the many different parties to this dispute will not come willingly to the negotiating table. They must be pressured into it, and the only means the EU has at our disposal is a review of the current association agreement which gives Israel preferential access to the EU market. We could even consider sanctions, as the world community imposed on the apartheid regime in South Africa.

"The EU is ideally placed to be honest broker in this, but we must see more action and concerted action at that. Otherwise we will continue to be nursemaid to a humanitarian disaster for ever more.



The text of Mr Smith's speech is below.

Alyn Smith (SNP). - Mr President, I, like many others present today, was with Mrs Morgantini in Gaza just a couple of weeks ago as this latest round in the current crisis was kicking off. We witnessed the systematic, deliberate, very sophisticated and effective brutalisation of an entire people.

Gaza is a prison without hope. Any moderate Palestinians are blocked at every turn as they try to develop a successful Palestinian state. They are being blocked by the Israelis, and we must place the blame appropriately.

The only result of all this can be violence forever more, and we can only treat the symptoms for so long. We saw well-meaning EU officials - we have heard today about theTemporary International Mechanism - and the EU is indeed doing a number of things to tackle the humanitarian symptoms of this disaster.

However, as the Commissioner said earlier, the roots of this situation are political and the solution to it must be political. The association agreement must be brought onto the table and sanctions considered, or we will be treating the symptoms of a humanitarian disaster forever more. We are not without weapons and must use everything we have at our disposal.