The EU has drafted a 10-point plan for a “credible, comprehensive solution” to the Israel-Palestine conflict, according to a draft document, seen by Euractiv, though securing EU member states’ and regional buy-in will be hard-fought.
“In view of the current situation and despite the evident difficulties and uncertainties, the time to prepare for (a) comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace is now,” the draft document, as seen by Euractiv, says in its introduction.
The EU’s effort comes as the bloc’s foreign ministers on Monday (22 January) meet to discuss the situation in Gaza and its wider implications for the region with some of the key stakeholders in the region.
It outlines a series of steps that could eventually bring peace to the Gaza Strip, establish an independent Palestinian state, normalise relations between Israel and the Arab world, and guarantee long-term security in the region, according to the non-paper, prepared by the EU’s diplomatic service (EEAS).
The draft roadmap is meant to “elaborate, with practical proposals, on the agreed principle that only a political, sustainable, long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will bring peace to the two peoples and stability to the region”, the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell wrote in an accompanying letter to member states.
The EU’s Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, Sven Koopmans, has been conducting preliminary consultations with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the League of Arab States, and other key partners, “to find common ground to revive the peace process”.
Koopmans also had proposed “to dedicate an ad hoc meeting to discuss this non-paper and those consultations” with EU member states’ officials “at the earliest opportunity”.
Before the Hamas attacks on Israel on 7 October 2023, the EU had planned to help lead a new ‘incentives’-focused Middle East peace initiative, dubbed the ‘Peace Day Effort’, aimed at re-starting talks between Israel and Palestine.
A meeting in September in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly had gathered almost 50 foreign ministers from Europe and the Middle East, to develop it further.
However, with the Gaza war, those plans had to be put on hold.
Borrell in November had also laid out a draft framework for post-war Gaza, calling for no long-term Israeli occupation, an end to Hamas’s rule, and a role for the Palestinian Authority in running the territory.
10-point roadmap to put an end to Israel-Palestine conflict
A future peace process should lead to an independent Palestinian State “living side by side” with Israel and “full normalization” of relations between Israel and the Arab world, according to the newly drawn-up plan.
“It is unrealistic to assume that Israelis and Palestinians (the latter represented by the PLO and the PA), will in the near future directly engage in bilateral peace negotiations to achieve comprehensive peace, let alone conclude such negotiations, without strong international involvement,” it states.
“Palestinians will need a revitalized political alternative to Hamas, while Israelis will need to find the political will to engage in meaningful negotiations towards the two-state solution,” it adds.
A key element of the EU’s future peace roadmap is a “Preparatory Peace Conference” involving the EU, the US, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Arab League and the United Nations.
Its participants would be in constant touch with Israeli and Palestinian officials “at every step and at any time”, referred to as “the conflict parties”, but the two would not initially “be compelled to sit with each other”.
The Gaza Strip and the West Bank would be represented by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), rather than Hamas, which has ruled the strip since its 2007 takeover and is designated a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US.
The peace conference would have one year to design the framework for a peace plan, taking into account the feedback from all involved parties, UN resolutions, European Council conclusions and previous mediation efforts.
Once drafted, the plan would be presented to the “conflict parties” and be used as the main basis for the final negotiations.
“It will be for them to negotiate the final text,” the document says.
“An essential element of the Peace Plan should be the development of robust security assurances for Israel and the future independent State of Palestine, conditional upon full mutual diplomatic recognition and integration of both Israel and Palestine in the region,” according to the proposal.
The plan “should also include the Peace Supporting Package envisioned in the Peace Day Effort” as an incentive for the two conflict parties.
“This means that it should state, as clearly and to the extent possible, which regional and global political and security mechanisms and other agreements and projects will be made available the day the parties conclude their peace agreement,” the draft roadmap continues.
However, it is unclear whether EU member states and regional stakeholders will be willing to embrace the bloc’s peace plan blueprint.
The EU has struggled for a united stance on the conflict in Gaza as staunch backers of Israel such as Germany have rejected calls for an immediate ceasefire voiced by countries like Spain and Ireland.
The European Parliament earlier this week in a close-run vote had called for a “permanent cease-fire” in Israel’s war against Hamas, but said this must be conditional on Hamas releasing the hostages it took in the October 7 attacks as well as the full demilitarization of Gaza.
The October events caught European officials and diplomats off-guard and the patchy and messy European response over the first week of the conflict had impacted the bloc’s credibility in the region, which is only slowly being repaired since then, according to EU diplomats.
With Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki expected to join Monday’s discussions separately, EU diplomats said they aim to sound out each side over ways to end the violence on the ground and the next steps towards a longer-term peace solution.
EU member states – along with the United States – believe the creation of a Palestinian state remains the only viable way to secure a lasting peace.
However, Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday (18 January) flatly rejected the idea and vowed to continue the military offensive in Gaza until the destruction of Hamas and the release of all hostages.
“We will not settle for anything short of an absolute victory,” Netanyahu said.