Daniel Levy, Head of ECFR Middle East & North Africa Programme
Olaf Boehnke, Head of ECFR Berlin Office
ECFR Berlin organised a coffee morning covering this summer’s Israel-Gaza war and likely consequences for the Middle East peace process. Daniel Levy, the Director of ECFR’s MENA programme was the guest speaker. The discussion initially focused on the events of the war and the role played by particular politicians. It then broadened out to look at the wider region and lastly at the effect of the war on Jewish communities in Europe. The general mood of the discussion was one of pessimism, as it was felt that four key reasons were preventing a breakthrough on negotiations and made a renewed conflict very likely: (1) the entrenchment of Israeli control over the West Bank (2) the absence of a Palestinian leadership strategy (3) the Israeli ability to act in the conflict with relative impunity and (4) the buy-in of regional and international actors to the Israeli model. The role played by Egypt in the current violence was also cited as problematic, as President Sisi sees the fight against Hamas as part of his own internal conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood. In these circumstances, it is unlikely that the ceasefire negotiations in Cairo will yield significant concessions which would remedy the core drivers of conflict. The discussion then covered possible new allegiances in MENA politics which Benjamin Netanyahu had referred to in his speech to the UN a couple of days beforehand. It was felt that, while potentially significant, these alliances were being deliberately overplayed by Netanyahu. Lastly, the discussion turned to Europe, the role of the EU and conflicts within Europe's Jewish communities as to how to act towards Israel. It was empahsised that the EU needs to stick to the norms of international law when dealing with Israel. This means making a clear distinction between goods produced in what is internationally recognised as Israel and those in occupied territory.
In attendance were high level representatives of government (e.g. the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Development) and experts from relevant think tanks (SWP, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, ELNET) and NGOs (Save the Children).