Israel is an interesting country. The interest in the Jewish state is disproportional to its size and geographical proximity. Many myths, beliefs and hopes influence attitude towards Israel. Is this the background for the exceptional expectations from the Jewish state?
In 1947, a UN resolution called for the establishment of a Jewish and an Arab State in the former British mandate in Palestine. The Arab states rejected the resolution then, and most of them refuse, even today, to accept Israel's right to exist. Starting in 1948, Israel extended its hand out to peace with its neighbors. Only two of them, Egypt and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, signed peace agreements with Israel. Israel initiated talks with the Palestinians and accepted the "Two states for Two Peoples" idea. It still awaits Arab and Palestinian acceptance of its right to exist.
When peace in the Middle East is being discussed, the demands and expectations are directed at Israel and not at the other side. Where are the public protests against the Arab refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist? Who demands actions against the ongoing attacks from Gaza on Israel's population? Instead there are suggestions to put pressure on Israel, the only country that gave up territory for peace.
The economic situation of the Palestinian Authority is also of great interest to Israel. On 31st July 2012, following an agreement on transfer of goods and tax procedures between Israel and the PA, the Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr. Salam Fayyad, stated: "I am certain that the arrangements concluded will help to strengthen the economic base of the Palestinian Authority - - . I am pleased to say that these arrangements will also improve the economic relations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel".
Moreover, the industry and agriculture in the West Bank are an example of coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. Some 22,000 Palestinians are employed by Israelis in the West Bank. A shut down of these enterprises would result in thousands of unemployed Palestinians and a loss of income to the Palestinian Authority.
The calls to label Israeli settlement products as "Products from the Occupied Territories of Palestine" predetermine the results of future negotiations. The Oslo accords between Israel and the Palestinians stipulate that the status of the West Bank will be determined in direct negotiations between the parties. Moreover, these agreements place the responsibility for the economic zones in area C of the West Bank on Israel. No one can expect people living in this area to cease their economic activity simply because the politicians have not reached an agreement.
There are over 160 (!) unsolved territorial disputes in the world. No demands were made for labeling products from Tibet, Abkhazia or northern Cyprus. Morocco, like Israel, has a Free Trade Agreement with the EU. The Western Sahara is defined by the EU as a territory under occupation whose inhabitants have the right of self-determination. Nevertheless, the EU grants preferential tax treatment to products from that area. The demand to label products from the West Bank singles out Israel, while similar policy is not applied to other areas with territorial disputes. A blanket labeling of products from the Israeli settlements also violates the spirit of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which prohibits arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on trade.
If Finland and the EU want to contribute to the peace process, they should convince the Palestinians and the Arab countries to accept the Jewish State's right to exist respect the signed agreements between the parties and refrain from incitement against Israel. A Palestinian Authority committed to peace will find in Israel a partner for a constructive dialogue and for an acceptable solution.