Israel Faces Increased Criticism Following EU “Diplomat Scuffle”

On the 20th September EU diplomats were attacked by Israeli Defense Forces while delivering humanitarian aid to a destroyed village in the West Bank occupied territories.

The Khirbet Al-Makhul settlement was destroyed by IDF personnel. There had once been a village there and Palestinian attempted to resettle the area but were banned by Israeli authorities.

The IDF attacked the EU trucks and confiscated them and their cargo. French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing attempted to prevent confiscation of the aid but was pulled from the truck and forced onto the ground.

Israeli soldiers carry French diplomat Marion Castaing after removing her from her truck containing emergency aid (Reuters / Abed Omar Qusini)

Stun grenades were thrown directly at EU diplomats, humanitarian aid workers and civilians, according to Reuters, because “stones were thrown” at security forces.

The EU ambassador to Israel called on Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for Europe, Rafi Shutz, to explain the actions of the IDF.

“What was done there by the European diplomats was a provocation,” Shutz was quoted as saying by Haaretz. He claimed the EU officials had“abused their diplomatic privileges” and that forced was used against French diplomat Marion Castaing as she slapped one of the soldiers who attempted to confiscate her truck.

The soldiers who were carrying machine guns, it should be pointed out. An outright attack on unarmed EU diplomats by any country other than Israel would most likely have been met with a far more serious reaction.

This incident follows a deterioration of EU-Israel relations this summer after the EU stated in July that would end all financial assistance to Israeli organisations operating in the occupied territories beginning in 2014. PM Netanyahu retaliated by blocking the EU from aiding the tens of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israeli authorities are accused of taking Palestinian grazing lands to use for the military or as settlements. Israel and Palestine and begun direct peace negotiations for the first time in 3 years though, according to Reuters “Palestinian officials have expressed serious doubts about the prospects of a breakthrough”.

An unnamed EU diplomat also said to Reuters that: “What the Israelis are doing is not helpful to the negotiations. Under any circumstances, talks or not, they’re obligated to respect international law,”.

This comes on the heels of greater attention being paid to Israel’s stores of chemical weapons and nuclear weapons. With so much international conversation over the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons it has opened discussion into the Israeli military that had before remained taboo.

Israel has not signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention nor did it sign the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty. This followed the release of a CIA report suggesting that Israel had created a sizable cache of chemical weapons by the 1980s. There was a recent New York Times editorial piece on the taboo surrounding open discussion of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.

A Haaretz editorial also called Israel’s refusal to ratify the chemical weapons convention with Syria “a short sighted position of dubious usefulness”. It also claimed that changing it policy would show Israel as “doing its part in the general effort to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction”.

With a more critical international eye on Israel than ever, Netanyahu may have chosen the wrong time to enter a political wrestling match with the EU.

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