Correspondent in Brussels
On Thursday, the Twenty-Seven took more than five hours to agree on a common language vis-à-vis Tel Aviv, Hamas and, more broadly, the Arab world. In the end, they condemn “with the greatest firmness Hamas for its atrocious and indiscriminate terrorist attacks in Israel”, reaffirm the need to “ensure the protection of all civilians at all times, in accordance with international humanitarian law” and say they “deeply concerned by the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza”. The Twenty-Seven once again call on Hamas to “immediately release all the hostages without any preconditions.”
“Unity is our strength,” argued on X – formerly Twitter – the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, while Europeans are worried about a conflagration in the region which would create a shock wave in the EU, particularly migratory but also economic, with a new surge in energy prices. In this context, they intend to find their place in the resolution of the conflict. Thus, they say they are ready to “contribute to the relaunch of a political process on the basis of the two-state solution” and affirm to support “the upcoming holding of an international peace conference”. This conference proposed last Saturday by Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the Egyptian president, supported by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo, could be held within six months. With all the parties involved but without Hamas because “it is a terrorist organization”, underlined Charles Michel.
In the immediate future, it is the dramatic situation in Gaza that worries Europeans. They call for the establishment of “continuous, rapid, secure and unimpeded humanitarian access (...) to assist those in need by any means necessary, including humanitarian corridors and breaks for needs humanitarians. The choice of words gave rise to significant negotiations over the last few days between EU diplomats and then between the Twenty-Seven on Thursday. The Germans, supporters of Israel due to their painful common history, did not want to hear about a break in the singular, believing that it could be interpreted as a cease-fire. Unlike the Spanish who fought with a few other member states.
During the meeting, some leaders argued that Israel not only has the right but also the obligation and duty to defend itself. “The positioning of Pedro Sanchez is linked to the internal politics of his country,” analyzes a European diplomat. The Spanish prime minister sealed an agreement on Tuesday with Sumar, the radical left, to try to stay in power. He ultimately sided with the positions of the overwhelming majority of leaders, provided that mention was made of the international peace conference in the conclusions of the meeting. A reference to the one that was organized in Madrid in 1991, the very first dedicated to peace in the Middle East.
Accused by the Arab world and the countries of the South of not having sufficiently denounced the deaths in Gaza and the dramatic conditions imposed on them by the response of the Hebrew State, the European Union undertakes to work "in close collaboration with partners in the region to protect civilians, provide assistance and facilitate access to food, water, medical care, fuel and shelter, ensuring that this assistance is not used misused by terrorist organizations. The President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, deliberately recalled that humanitarian aid had been tripled and that 56 tonnes of material financed by the EU had already been sent to the site. “Two next flights are planned for this Friday,” she announced. In total, 40 million euros are planned to finance the needs of Gazans and 10 million to charter the planes which will transport them to Egypt.
In reality, each leader will see in the chosen terms what they want to see. If the Europeans were able to have a substantive debate on the Israeli-Palestinian question for the first time in a long time and if the meeting allowed Emmanuel Macron to defend his idea of an international coalition against Hamas, the differences in sensitivity do not are not and will not be erased. “Israel is a democratic state guided by very humanitarian principles and we can therefore be sure that the Israeli army will respect the rules arising from international law in everything it does,” declared Chancellor Olaf Scholz upon his arrival at the summit. , therefore deliberately placing himself in the camp of Israel. These differences were also perceptible during the press conference organized at the end of the first day of the summit. Charles Michel thus pointed out the risk of seeing Islamophobia rise in Europe when Ursula von der Leyen, who had been criticized by member states for being too pro-Israeli during a recent trip to the country, put the emphasis on anti-Semitism.