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Saturday, April 17, 2004

Europe Unhappy with Bush Administration -- Again

A lot of bloggers, including Abu Aardvark, have noted the very serious implications of the Bush deal with Sharon the other day. Basically, the US is tossing aside decades of policy and writing off Arab public opinion.

The deal conflicts with longstanding international understandings about occupied territories. Shared norms have long precluded states keeping territory acquired in war.

International norms matter -- the US and Israel cannot simply decide by themselves that Israeli settlements built on occupied territory are legitimate and can remain in place. Other great powers might not be keen on the precedent -- and of course there are competing claims for the land.

Today, the European Union has declared that the so-called "roadmap to peace" remains central so far as the EU is concerned, and they wish to see issues such as the occupied territory and the "right to return" negotiated by all the parties -- including the Palestinians.

Clearly, as many of its members did in regard to Iraq, the EU again intends to challenge American unilateralism:
EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten warned the world community had to repair "an awful lot of damage" arising from a historic US policy reversal announced by President George W. Bush this week.

And French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier warned Bush to "respect" Europe, saying the quartet was not a "one-man show".

Bush dropped a political bombshell by backing Sharon's plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip -- coupled with the retention of permanent settlements on the West Bank.

The president's declaration reversed three decades of US foreign policy, which had consistently labelled the Israeli settlements an obstacle to peace.

"The Union reaffirms its belief that the roadmap represents the only route to achieving such an outcome," said a statement issued at the end of a two-day meeting.

Bush also endorsed Sharon's contention that Palestinian refugees driven out of their homes when the Jewish state was created in 1948 had no right to return.

But in their statement, the EU ministers recalled that the bloc "will not recognise any change to the pre-1967 borders (created by the Six Day War) other than those arrived at by agreement between the parties".

"The Union emphasises that no declared views on the possible shape of a final settlement can pre-empt the negotiation of that settlement."

The ministers added that a Middle East settlement "must include an agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to this question" of refugees.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw claims that the Bush administration remains committed to the roadblock, but lots of people now doubt that after the deal this week.

Bush foreign policy really is disastrous. The US has unpredented military power, but that does not afford it the right to assert anything it wants in world affairs. As Iraq demonstrates daily, using that military force to achieve desired goals can be quite difficult. And other great powers can make life miserable for the US when they are sufficiently perturbed. After all, the US wants their cooperation in the UN on Iraq over the next six weeks.


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