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Paper 12 : La complémentarité entre l'Union européenne et les États-Unis dans le processus de paix israelo-arabe : les implications pour le PEM
Written by May Chartouni-Dubarry   
Cette étude cherche à évaluer les liens entre le Processus de Barcelone et les Processus de paix Israelo-Arabe. Même si des liens formels entre les deux processus on été formellement exclus par les vingt-sept membres du Partenariat Euro-Meditérraéen, en realité ces liens existent, comme en Témoign l'époque du gouvernment Netanyahu en Israel à patir de 1996. En effect, pour EuroMeSCo, il y a un complémentarité positivedans le sens que l'Europe pourrait jouer une rôle utile dans la construction de la paix au Moyen Orient.



Part One


1. Introduction

1.1 Interaction between the EMP and the MEPP

1.2 EuroMeSCo as a way of building confidence

1.3 EU/US complementarity as a condition for the success of the EMP

2. Interrelated topics

2.1 The terms and challenges of a Euro-American "divison of labour"

2.2 European Agreement and disagreement

2.3 Regional view of complementarity

3. Conclusions

4. Recommendations

Part Two


The Case for US-EU Complementarity in the Peace Process: A European Perspective, Volker Perthes

US View of the Peace Process, Graham E. Fuller

Complementarity of US and European Roles in the Peace Process: Israeli Perspectives, Mark A. Heller

On the Complementary between the EU and the US Regarding the Middle East Peace Process: A Palestinian Perspective, Mannuel S. Hassassian

American and European Roles in the Peace Process: A Syrian-Lebanese Perspective, Joseph Bahout

Complementarity between US and European Roles in the Peace Process: Lebanese Perspective, Nadim Shehadi


This report is the result of work carried out within the framework of the EuroMeSCo working group on Complementarity between the European Union and the United States in the Middle East Peace Process: Implications for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. The group met twice in Paris at the offices of Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI). In October 1998, a preliminary meeting of the "core group", comprising the project coordinator, Mark Heller and Volker Perthes, was held to agree the work programme, and finalise the list of group members. Papers were presented and discussed within the group at the project seminar held in July 1999.

The following took part in the working group:

Joe Bahout, Saint-Joseph University , Lebanon

May Chartouni-Dubarry, Ifri, France, coordinator and rapporteur

Graham E. Fuller, Rand Corporation, United States

Mannuel Hassassian, Bethlehem University, Palestine

Mark A. Heller, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Israel

Volker Perthes, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Germany

Nadim Shehadi, Center for Lebanese Studies, United Kingdom

Their individual contributions are appended to this report. The full text of this publication, including the project papers can be found at

Part One

1. Introduction

The group on Complementarity between the European Union and the United States in the Middle East peace process: Implications for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership is somewhat different from the rest of the EuroMeSCo working groups, for its main topic is only indirectly related to the provisions concerning the political and security partnership of the Barcelona Declaration. The Middle East peace process (MEPP) is only mentioned briefly in the Declaration, in vague and general terms, and no mention is made of the United States (US). As for the notion of "complementarity", even if the term does not appear in the Barcelona Declaration, it was rapidly adopted in practice, as it became a major challenge for Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP). The reasons for this silence in the Declaration on a conflict that has racked the Middle East for half a century and represents one of the main sources of insecurity in the eastern Mediterranean are now common knowledge. All twenty-seven EMP partners agreed to differentiate between the Madrid and the Barcelona processes, and thus avoid the risk of the one hindering the other; the European Union (EU) wished to preserve the special character of the Transatlantic Relationship and had no desire to stand in the way of the peace-making efforts of the US sponsors of the Arab-Israeli negotiations; and lastly, regional actors (Israel, Syria and Lebanon) had considerable misgivings or simply refused to use the multilateral framework of the Barcelona process as a second track for peace talks.

And yet interaction between the Madrid and Barcelona processes was implicitly posited as being inevitable. In a sense Barcelona would never have happened without Madrid. By integrating for the first time the eastern part of the Mediterranean in their project the promoters of the EMP wanted to re-establish – in word and in spirit – Mediterranean unity, which had disappeared at the fall of the Roman Empire, so as to enhance as much as possible the Partnership's chances of success, even at the risk of taking on all the endemic problems of the region and jeopardising the entire project. The historic Madrid summit in 1991, followed two years later by the Oslo Accords between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as the spectacular progress in the Syrian track in 1993-95, prompted unprecedented optimism as to the long-term chances of stability in the Middle East, thus paving the way to sub-regional cooperation and, in time, integration into a larger Euro-Mediterranean zone. As far as its European promoters were concerned, this "driving force for peace" would give the Barcelona process a good start and even pull it along in the wake of further breakthroughs. A year and a half after its inception, however, the EMP had to cope with a full-scale crisis that threw doubt on its viability. The Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" operation in Lebanon, in the spring of 1996, which was shortly to be followed by the change of government in Israel in June, came as a reminder that the military option was still open in the Middle East. The election of Benjamin Netanyahu revealed how fragile, indeed reversible, progress towards peace was. The accompanying tension soon impinged on the Barcelona process, paralysing the second ministerial conference in Malta, in April 1997 and threatening it with complete failure. At the time, obstruction in the peace process appeared to condemn attempts to achieve political and security partnership if not the overall Barcelona process, to failure.

From being "fruitful", interaction between the EMP and the MEPP became a handicap. There was talk of "contamination" and the need to prevent Barcelona from becoming a hostage of Madrid. The debate that developed between the various intergovernmental bodies involved in the Barcelona process was particularly revealing of the profound disturbance caused by the massive and unexpected intrusion of the Arab-Israeli conflict into Euro-Mediterranean affairs, at a time when the EMP was still in an embryonic stage. As we know, this initial serious crisis was overcome. In a sense it proved beneficial, because for the first time the twenty-seven EMP partners had been forced to face a crucial issue of the magnitude of the peace process and attempt to forge a common position. The final statement issued at the Stuttgart ministerial conference (Barcelona III, April 1999), whilst reflecting a shaky balance between Arab and Israeli positions, nevertheless revealed a significant advance in political determination within the emp: although unable to address the problem itself, there was at least full awareness of it. In this respect, the statement is more daring than the Barcelona Declaration for it devotes four paragraphs to the peace process and the word "complementary" is mentioned explicitly.

The merits, indeed necessity, of forming a working group to address this particular topic originated from a whole series of ideas on the changing political and security environment and the mission entrusted to EuroMeSCo.

1.1 Interaction between the EMP and the MEPP

First, it is important to bear in mind that the peace process is far from being the only obstacle in the path of Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. The interaction between the two processes is undeniable, however, and it can neither be avoided nor underestimated. It must be integrated as an essential issue for all government and non-governmental actors involved in or associated with the various levels of the Barcelona process. In addition, interaction is not one-sided, for Barcelona may also "carry" Madrid, as was the case during the three years of the Netanyahu government when the EMP was the only multilateral forum in which Israelis and Arabs (including the Syrians and Lebanese) continued to meet regularly for discussions on political and security issues.

1.2 EuroMeSCo as a way of building confidence

EuroMeSCo is an instrument for implementing the political and security provisions of the EMP, as well as one of its very first achievements in confidence building. It aims to encourage dialogue in civil society on political and security issues, and more specifically, among experts, researchers and academics by addressing all the topics or challenges concerned by the Barcelona process. The second function of the network developed out of practical experience. It seeks to inform the decision-making process at intergovernmental level through regular meetings with the senior officials in charge of Barcelona process, the European Commission and the Council Secretariat. EuroMeSCo has now decided to address "taboo" subjects of this type, too politically sensitive to be addressed by official bodies. The aim here was to make the best possible use of the multilateral, informal framework provided by the network to organise open discussions between Arabs, Israelis and Europeans on a vital topic of common interest, namely the future of the peace process and its impact on the EMP, against the backdrop of the no-less-central question of the complementarity between the European Union and the United States.

1.3 EU/US complementarity as a condition for the success of the EMP

Given these considerations, the working group focused on the key notion of "complementarity" applied to the specific case of the Middle East peace process. It decided to look at the following questions: to what extent would a rational division of labour between the European Union and the United States, along geographical or functional lines, contribute to the success of the emp, or at the very least reduce or neutralise the risks, mentioned above, of one process impeding the other? At a more fundamental level, if the lack of a common foreign and security policy prevents the EU from playing a significant part in the peace process and obliges it to keep a low profile, what hope is there for the success of the EMP, which is paradoxically a test for the future of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)? Finally, how are we to add some substance to the notion of complementarity and how are we to make it operational?

2. Interrelated Topics

The discussions of the working group centred on three interrelated topics: 1) the comparative advantages of the United States and the European Union; 2) the comparative advantages of EU Member states; 3) the reaction of local actors.

2.1 The terms and challenges of a Euro-American "division of labour"

Since the Venice Declaration in 1980 the commonly accepted idea, which persists to this day, was that there was a structural incompatibility between the US and Europe's roles in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In recent years, the growing debate on this issue strengthened the impression that the respective positions were increasingly different and ultimately irreconcilable. The working group started from the assumption that the situation was actually much more complex, for at least two reasons.

The first, most fundamental reason is that there is almost complete agreement between US and European policy on the principles and conditions for settling the Arab-Israeli conflict and its two "missing links" (Syrian/Lebanese and Palestinian Peace Agreements). When all the participants at the 1991 Madrid Conference accepted resolution 242 as the basis for negotiations, this cleared away the reservations expressed by certain European countries as to the US capacity to act as a neutral mediator or broker on account of its strong ties with Israel. The spectacular progress achieved until 1996 (the Oslo Accords, peace between Jordan and Israel, and the breakthroughs along the Syrian track) encouraged the European Union, and the international community as a whole, to support the so-called Madrid process, which was structured by the Bush-Baker team. The existing consensus on the primacy of US mediation, considered to be irreplaceable if a settlement was to be achieved, outweighed the European Union’s disappointment at being sidelined at the Madrid Conference.

Things started to change under the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Negotiations came to a standstill and tension increased, a situation that was attributed to both Israeli policy and what the Europeans saw as a lack of determination on the part of the United States. In other words the differences are not so much due to what the United States do but rather to what they do not or cannot do. The setbacks to the peace process from 1996-99 clearly fuelled the fears and growing dissatisfaction of the Europeans but also led to a historic rapprochement between the United States and the Palestinians. While the United States and the European Union may have different approaches to the peace process, this does not reflect a difference in interests, but rather a difference in priorities.

The second reason, which is related to the first, has a more global, structural origin in their respective strategic perspectives. Whereas the United States has a "global" approach to the area, which gives priority to security issues and "power politics", the Europeans share a regionalist view of the Mediterranean. The latter view developed into a rationalised policy with the Barcelona Declaration, which puts full emphasis on regional stability. The two approaches are neither mutually exclusive nor opposed to each other. The Barcelona process was not set in motion in reaction to or "against" US omnipresence in the Middle East. On the contrary, the very notion of "complementarity" itself emerged as a reassurance to the United States – in so far as this was necessary – that the Euro-Mediterranean partnership was not intended to supplant US influence in the Middle East but rather to complement it.

As far as the rationale for or the formulation of a division of labour between the United States and the European Union is concerned, differences within the working group focused on two main issues: the capacity of the European Union to play a fully active political role; and the coherence and continuity of EU and US decision-making processes.

The lack of substance in the common foreign and security policy, the institutional complexity of the European Union and the "rotating" interlocuteurs were emphasised by all the members of the working group. Although these factors do not constitute an actual handicap, they certainly act as a brake on transatlantic complementarity in the area. In contrast, the question of how consistent the various US decision centres are on foreign policy, and more specifically on the Middle East, prompted a variety of interpretations and explanations.

Two positions were clearly apparent. The first contrasts the pluralism, independence and flexibility of the US political system, which provides several ways of reaching the decision-making process – Congress, the media and public opinion – with the rigid, monolithic, bureaucratic character of European foreign policies, entangled in national agendas and administrative inertia. The lack of direct points of contact substantially reduces the extent to which regional actors can defend their positions.

The other point of view stresses the fragmentation of the US decision-making process where the interests expressed by the White House, Congress or the State Department are often on the verge of conflict. During an election campaign or at a time of regional tension this may paralyse US policy in the Middle East and damage its credibility, making it more vulnerable to lobbying by powerful local pressure groups. The "democratic" nature of the decision-making process involves the risk of US policy on the peace process becoming the hostage of issues that are, strictly speaking, domestic. At a more global level "it is increasingly difficult to form a consensus in the United States on foreign policy".

2.2 European agreement and disagreement

As we emphasised above, it was during the three years of the Netanyahu government that EU demands to play a direct political part in the peace process became increasingly pressing, leading to the appointment of a special envoy as an expression of this joint political determination. However the question of how national policies relate to the CFSP, in particular with reference to the Middle East, is still open.

All the working group participants stressed that the lack of a single, unified European position on the Middle East peace process was one of the main obstacles to achieving genuine transatlantic task-sharing. Without addressing the challenges facing the CFSP – which is outside the scope of this group – discussions sought to explore ways of achieving complementarity within Europe itself, based on the comparative advantages of individual EU members.

First, geographical factors contribute to a greater sense of urgency among countries in southern Europe that are more exposed to the risks of Mediterranean instability than their northern neighbours. This sense of urgency was one of the driving forces behind the Barcelona process.

An additional positive factor is to be found in the historical ties between certain EU and Middle East countries. The most significant examples are the links between France and Lebanon and Syria, and between Germany and Israel. Capitalising on these bonds enables European states to make an individual contribution – but on behalf of the European Union – to either contain or stifle a crisis, or untangle and revive the peace negotiations.

2.3 Regional view of complementarity

Whereas the debate on Transatlantic complementarity with respect to the peace process has occupied both politicians and experts a great deal, both in the European Union and the United States, regional actors have shown little interest in the question.

As far as Israel is concerned, the issue of a division of labour between the United States and the European Union is a non-issue. The Israeli position on the subject has always been to give priority to direct negotiations between the parties and to try, as far as possible, to prevent third parties from becoming involved in the peace process. Moreover, experience has shown that peace can only be achieved by the actors in the conflict themselves. The most significant steps forward – Sadat's visit to Israel, the Oslo accords, and the peace treaty with Jordan – were taken without outside intervention. At the top of the long list of grievances against Netanyahu is that he contributed to further US involvement in the negotiations, in particular with the Palestinians (Hebron Protocol, Wye River Memorandum). On taking office, the Barak administration immediately stated its determination to re-establish a bilateral approach to negotiations, as was the case before 1996. There is no doubt that the unfailing US ally is still the only credible and acceptable mediator in the peace process, but ideally Israeli leaders would prefer to do without any form of outside interference, by the United States or the European Union. Israel’s strong bargaining position goes a long way to explaining its determination to restrict the handling and resolution of the conflict to its protagonists.

Having said that, Europe's image as a mediator is still basically negative in Israel. Its policy in the region is perceived as consisting largely of gratuitous declarations. Criticism focuses, in particular, on its partiality – its supposed pro-Arab or anti-Israeli bias – its inability to provide Israel with essential security guarantees and direct economic and military aid, and the lack of an integrated foreign and security policy shared by all member states. If the EU contribution to the peace process has been secondary or indeed marginal – apart from its financial and economic assistance – this has more to do with longstanding Israeli resistance than any American misgivings, however persistent they may be, about accepting the idea of EU/US co-sponsorship.

In contrast there are still insistent, though perhaps only rhetorical, calls from Arab countries for Europe to play a more active role. On the whole these expectations do not correspond to what Europe has already achieved in real terms to counterbalance US policy in the area, but more to sympathy accumulated over the last twenty years. Ever since the Venice Declaration, Europe has been seen as being much more receptive to Arab demands and claims than the United States. Following the Oslo accords this trust was boosted by European financial and economic aid, which is generally agreed to have been vital for at least the Palestinian track. Without this support the Palestinian Authority would probably not have survived. Nevertheless, Europe's generally positive image in the Arab world still has no political content in operational terms. On the one hand EU foreign policy is not integrated, in particular with respect to the Middle East, and on the other there is an almost complete lack of coordination between Arab countries directly concerned by the conflict. As a result Arab demands reach Brussels, Berlin and Paris erratically. They become more pressing when the United States fails to act as a "facilitator" and direct mediator in bilateral negotiations, but they are rarely more than isolated outbursts. Even if all the Arab countries involved in the peace process (Lebanon, Palestine and Syria) criticise the bias in US policy they also know that only the United States has sufficient clout to guarantee a peace agreement with Israel.

This is particularly true of Syria, which, behind its repeated demands that the European Union play a direct and active part in the peace process, is actually attempting to reach out to its ultimate "object of desire", namely the United States. The normalisation of its relations with Washington and the US financial aid that it hopes to obtain in exchange for an agreement with Israel are one of the main peace dividends for Damascus. Division of labour between the European Union and the United States has in fact been most successful in the case of Syria. The United States have taken care of all the "hard diplomacy" and security guarantees, whereas Europe is expected to look after multilateral investment over the longer term, in the period following a peace settlement. As for the cultural factor that is often quoted as an example of the relative advantage of the European Union over the United States, it is subject to caution for two reasons. The first is that Syria – probably even more so than Lebanon – has still not got over its colonial heritage (the French mandate). The second reason is that the vast majority of Westernised Arab elites have adopted the US model.

From the Lebanese standpoint, Transatlantic complementarity fits into the constant concern manifest in the foreign policy of this small state – because of its own military and strategic resources – to seek Western protection so as to guarantee its national sovereignty. In the specific context of the peace process, the United States is undoubtedly the dominant power and the Europeans are secondary actors. Since the end of the civil war (Taef Accord in 1989) control has been exclusively Syrian. Lebanon now positions itself on the international stage, and in its relations with both the United States and the European Union, behind a strategic screen based on the principle that negotiations on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks cannot be dissociated. Its options, which are extremely limited, range from shifting the US position in a direction that favours Lebanese interests, to seeking a European – or in fact French – role to counterbalance US policy.

3. Conclusions

Despite continuing differences, consensus on the following points was achieved at formal meetings and informal encounters between the various members of the group:

There is a de facto link between the Middle East peace process and EU interests as stated in the Barcelona Declaration, the aim of which is quite clearly to build a secure regional neighbourhood. Although this was not intended by its promoters, the Barcelona process created an institutional and "conceptual" framework for debate on the inevitable interaction between the long-term view of the Partnership and the need to politically involve the twenty-seven partners in the immediate management of crises and not just the question of how to prevent them in the future. See Roberto Aliboni, "Building Blocks for the Euro-Med Charter on Peace and Stability. In this sense, it may be said that the Middle East peace process also became a Euro-Mediterranean issue on account of the approach inherent in the Barcelona process.

No one disputes the dominant role played by the United States in managing the Arab-Israeli conflict and/or peace process. But this role has changed qualitatively since the end of the Cold War. The negotiations and/or direct bilateral contacts – that the Arab states refused, with the support of the former Soviet Union – have become more formal and are no longer unusual events. In the meantime, the positions of the United States, the European Union and regional actors have converged on UN resolutions 242 and 338 (1967) – which provide an official legal basis for the principle of "land for peace" to achieve an overall, just and equitable settlement. This has changed the almost exclusive nature of the US role. It became actively involved in 1974 – if we take the Geneva Conference as the starting point of the peace process – as a third party in negotiations. At Madrid it decided to adopt the role of "facilitator" and spared no effort to keep the process on the rails, while avoiding in so far as possible taking the place of the protagonists and interfering in fundamental issues. This does not in any sense mean that we are still in the same bipolar framework with a "zero sum game" in which the European Union picks up all the "misses" in US policy. As stated above, there is no power rivalry, in terms of interests, opposing the two Western allies in the Middle East and the Mediterranean as a whole. The differences concern the choice of approach and the order of priorities. For all the regional actors, and despite insistent Arab demands for a more active European role, the United States remains the primary partner and the most credible guarantor – in strategic and financial terms – for an Arab-Israeli settlement.

The complementarity between the European Union and the United States in the peace process exists de facto. Contrary to the "diplomatically correct" clichés on the topic, this is more of a source of irritation than agreement between the Western Allies, both between Americans and Europeans and between individual EU member states. The issue is also a dividing line in Washington separating those who are completely against Europe playing any part in the peace process – because they see it as jeopardising US interests and the process itself – from those who, without challenging the primacy of the US role, believe that burden sharing is both inevitable and necessary (not only in economic but also political terms).

In the absence of institutionalised Transatlantic dialogue and coordination on the peace process, an empirical, functional and geographic division of tasks has come about, not by choice but by necessity, under the pressure of circumstance. The comparative advantages of one or the other party will continue to demonstrate their merits for the Palestinian or Syrian/Lebanese tracks. The most striking examples so far are obviously the Oslo Accords, thanks to the discreet and effective services of Norway – which is not an EU member – the April 1996 agreement between Syria, Lebanon and Israel, achieved to a large extent through the diplomatic determination of France and much criticised at the time by its own European partners – and finally the many forms of continuing support, both financial and technical, that the European Union has contributed to the process of building a Palestinian national entity.

The work carried out within the working group has reflected this gradual division of labour:

A division of tasks and responsibilities between the United States and the European Union implies a form of constructive competition that highlights the relative merits of both parties. It pre-supposes rational sharing of both US strategic power, thanks to the maturity that has come with managing Arab-Israeli crises, and the political and economic resources of the European Union, without forgetting its long experience in setting up multilateral organisations.

Complementarity becomes a more realistic, operational instrument with the unprecedented convergence of views between regional and international parties on how to settle the conflict. The irreducible opposition between a "pro-Arab" Europe and a "pro-Israeli" America is a thing of the past, if it ever actually existed. No European state can be reasonably accused of promoting policies that are deliberately contrary to Israeli interests.

The European Union must continue to play an active role in developing regional and sub-regional institutions, essential to consolidate and "multilateralise" peace, not only in the Middle East but all over the Euro-Mediterranean area. It is here that the MEPP and the EMP interact. There is no question of one rescuing the other or of the Europeans replacing the Americans as the sponsors of the peace process. Nevertheless the fact that the partnership project has survived under particularly difficult conditions requires a clearer distinction between the functions and responsibilities of the main actors, be they local or international, in a conflict that remains one of the main stumbling blocks in the political and security basket of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.

4. Recommendations

The complementarity between the EU and US roles should be reinforced in operational terms. In order to achieve better coordination of the division and sharing of tasks, functions and responsibilities, it is necessary to set up – or consolidate existing – permanent mechanisms for Euro-American dialogue.

Improved coordination between EU member states is also essential, if only to avoid confusion between individual initiatives by certain states and those undertaken on behalf of the European Union as a whole. This confusion may damage the coherence, credibility and effectiveness of EU policy in the area. Here again setting up an informal framework for discussions between Europeans, bringing together officials and experts would pave the way for permanent consultations between the various EU member states.

As emphasised above, European involvement in the Middle East peace process must be based on the relative advantages at the disposal of the European Union and its member states: on the one hand building on the historic ties that certain countries have developed in the area; on the other on EU experience and expertise – both in theoretical and practical terms – of sub-regional cooperation as an essential instrument for promoting and consolidating peace in the Middle East. In concrete terms, Europe must take the leading role in peace-building and thus complement the major role played by the United States in peace-making.

The creation of a Europe-Middle East commission involving Europeans, Arabs and Israelis is proposed in order to improve the receptiveness of regional actors to a more active European role in the Middle East peace process. Its objective would be to try to define, analyse and overcome the causes of regional resistance to and obstruction of the idea of Transatlantic complementarity in the Middle East. This trilateral framework for discussion – of which the level of representation is yet to be defined – is now a necessary instrument to impose the credibility of the European Union as an impartial but equitable actor. Until now attempts at Euro-Arab and Euro-Israeli dialogue, conducted in parallel, have not been convincing. They have tended to raise suspicions and have even irritated one or other of the two parties, further confusing and complicating the role of the European Union. To succeed, this commission must proceed empirically, with clear, but realistic objectives, initially designed to open the way forward by defining the exact position or positions of the three parties.



The Case for US-EU Complementarity in the Peace Process:

A European Perspective

Volker Perthes

1. Background

The European Union and its member states have begun to define only after 1996 the role they intended to play in the Middle East process as complementary to the American role. This concept, which is now regularly used, has a dual function: on the one hand, it underlines the claim for a political, as opposed to a purely financial or economic role, to stress that Europe can be "a player as well as a payer". On the other hand it is meant to defuse American suspicions that Europe might actually want to compete with the US or counterbalance US policies in the region.

Of course, European policy-makers have not always been convinced of the wisdom of US policies or positions towards the region and towards its main actors. The strong pro-Israel bias of US policies in particular has not been seen as helpful. Europeans have also been disturbed by the strong linkage of US Middle East policies to domestic issues, and there have been fears that the US would disregard the legitimate interests of core Arab players, such as the Palestinians or Syria, and would eventually try to sponsor a form of settlement that would be neither just nor comprehensive. In general, however, European criticism of US policies in the Middle East was not so much about what the Americans did, as rather about what they failed to do – about an apparent lack of resolve with regard to the peace process, particularly in the first years of the Netanyahu government in Israel. The Clinton administration's more active intervention in the fall of 1998 that led to the signing of the Wye River Memorandum was therefore strongly welcomed; even though it was seen as belated and overdue. Europeans have also pointed out that US influence on regional actors is limited. This did not mean that Europe would do any better, but it meant, in the European perspective, that claims of US policymakers to the effect that the US was uniquely capable of solving the Middle East conflict were not vindicated.

The semi-official US response to the European quest for a larger and more political role in the peace process, as well as to the concept of complementarity, has not been positive. Americans do not deny that Europe has a stake in the region, but there exist serious doubts that Europe would actually be capable of exercising a political or diplomatic function. In the eyes of many US policy makers and pundits, Europe has neither the instruments for such a role, nor does it have the right approach: The EU and most of its members, it is argued, were unbalanced (pro-Arab or pro-Palestinian), they focused too much on specific outcomes of a settlement (such as demanding Israel's withdrawal from the Golan); and their involvement into the actual negotiation process would complicate matters rather than being helpful. European governments and the EU should therefore stick to what they could usefully do: namely commit aid and participate in the multilateral talks.

In a sense, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, helped to narrow the gulf between American and European Middle East policies – in the last six months of his premiership at least. His active frustration of President Clinton's efforts to move the Oslo process forward (particularly his failure to implement the Wye Memorandum) paved the way for a new and positive relationship between the US and the Palestinian Authority. As the US administration became more responsive to Palestinian grievances, it also began to take positions that were closer to those of the Europeans.

2. Different priorities rather than different interests

Europe and the US do have different approaches to the Middle East and to the peace process. This is not so much a result of contradictory interests as rather of different priorities.

The key US interests have clearly and repeatedly been defined: they comprise the security and wellbeing of Israel, the free flow of oil, the security of friendly Arab regimes and, more recently, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Europeans do not deny the importance of any of those US interests. Their main concern, however, is regional stability – a central concept to European thinking in regard to the region which is conspicuously absent from the US list of priorities. Also, «peace in the Middle East» has been defined as a «vital» interest of the EU. There also is a European consensus of sorts that there is no military threat from the region, while risks that emanate from local and regional instabilities, from inter-state conflict (Arab-Israeli or other), from social crises and political turbulences in individual countries of the region as well as from economic imbalances between Europe and its Mediterranean neighbours have to be taken seriously. Uncontrolled migration, the spread of religious or nationalistic extremisms, and the export to Europe of regional conflicts, via migrant communities or terrorist groups, are of particular concern.

As concerns the Arab-Israeli conflict and peace process per se, the US list of priorities starts with the security and well-being of Israel. Europeans, in contrast, emphasise the need for comprehensive peace and security, including the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. In other words, the US views the Middle East from a global perspective and focuses on its prime ally in the region; Europe has a regionalist approach and consequently gives more equitable attention to the entire group of its Mediterranean and Middle Eastern neighbours. It does entertain special relations with Israel, but it cannot and will not base its policies on "strategic relationships" with just one or two regional partner states. Any regional destabilisation is seen as a risk, even if it would not affect the security of Israel or the flow of oil.

Different leanings are thus partly the result of geographic proximity and interdependence. Above that, economic interest and domestic policy equations play a role. European commercial interests in the region are much stronger, and also more diversified than those of the United States. And while all EU countries consider Israel a friend, Israel or support for Israel, is nowhere as much an issue of domestic politics in Europe as in the US. As a result, Europe is generally more open to Arab demands and positions than the US – even though the EU and basically all its member states still have stronger and better relations with Israel than with any Arab state.

3. Different structures and different approaches

Different leanings do not necessarily form an obstacle to Transatlantic consultation or even co-operation on Middle Eastern issues. They can be translated into comparative advantages, especially if seen in the context of different structures and capabilities. These differences of structure can be characterised as follows:

The United States is a single state, and is uniquely capable of projecting military power into the region. The EU, in contrast, is still a union of sovereign states that all have their own respective interests and biases and do not always act coherently. The EU's common foreign and security policy still needs inter-governmental consensus for any joint action. Also, some of Europe's regional partners have been frustrated by the institutional complexity of Europe and by the constant change of interlocutors. Europe is neither able nor willing to project military power into the region.

US foreign policies are highly dependent on electoral cycles and the four-year presidential term. US policies towards the Middle East are generally paralysed in election years – or at least are perceived as being paralysed which eventually may have the same effect. Moreover, inter-agency differences tend to have a negative effect on the ability of the administration to follow through on its agenda. Congress, in particular, likes to interfere with Middle East policy. In contrast, elections and changes of government in EU member states, the semi-annual change of the EU presidency or even the appointment of a new EU Commission are hardly noticeable in terms of Europe's policies towards the region. European Middle East policies are very much the brainchild of the bureaucracies in Brussels as well as in the national capitals. The European parliament and national parliaments in EU countries tend to accentuate these policies rather than counterbalance or obstruct them. As a result, European policies towards the Middle East mostly have a long-term perspective. The Barcelona process, with a 15-to-20 years time frame, is a telling example.

Compared to Europe, US foreign-policy making is highly personalised, with the US president being the prime mover and decision-maker. This also reflects on the way the United States and Europe conduct their policies towards the region. It is noticeable that US Middle East policies tend to focus on regional leaders, and work on them, much more and much more effectively than the European Union or any single EU state. Presidential phone calls as well as invitations to White House summits are important instruments. European leaders would likely not achieve similar results with a call to their regional counterparts. At the same time, it appears that US officials and policymakers pay little attention to structural developments and socio-political dynamics in the region. Europeans seem to have a better understanding of these regional dynamics and of the sensitivities of local actors. Reflecting the institutional architecture of Europe, the EU also has an inbuilt tendency towards multilateralism.

4. Comparative advantages and complementarity

Given these differences of polity structure and comparative capabilities, it is clear that complementarity does exist. That is, Europe and the United States each enjoy particular comparative advantages and weaknesses in regard to their respective ability to influence the course of events in the Middle East. Europe, for instance, would never be able to force on the regional parties anything like the Madrid peace conference. At the same time it would be unthinkable for any US administration to establish, support and maintain such a complex multilateral, multidimensional and multi-level process as the Barcelona process.

Complementarity implies a certain division of responsibilities, but it does not mean that one party should follow the other blindly, or that Americans and Europeans have to see eye-to-eye on every question that concerns their policies in the region. For this division of responsibilities (and labour), the following guidelines should apply:

The United States will have to remain the main regional power broker. US efforts should concentrate on high-level diplomacy, especially in facilitating and mediating bilateral negotiations. US security assistance and guarantees to individual countries may be helpful to reassure and compensate them for certain territorial or political concessions they will have to make in a peace agreement. Europeans should not be deceived by Arab calls for a greater European role: When it comes to forging a final deal, Syria, Lebanon or the Palestinian leadership will want to have the Americans at the table. The Arab states may have limited trust in the impartiality of the United States, but they certainly want its weight and power to be behind an agreement they will conclude with Israel.

Europe will generally have to concentrate on less visible, but no less politically important contributions to achieving and stabilising peace in the Middle East. The EU should be brought in charge of reviving the multilateral peace talks. The EU should therefore be made the chair or co-chair of a renewed steering group of the Multilaterals. The EU should also continue to sponsor and support other regional or subregional multilateral activities, particularly in the fields of economic and security co-operation. Europe will thereby provide practical experience and get regional actors used to working in multilateral frameworks.

As far as the Arab-Israeli bilateral relations are concerned, European contributions to their evolution will generally take place on somewhat lesser diplomatic levels, and often with lower profile. This includes traditional diplomatic functions such as conveying messages between and developing ideas with regional leaders. It also includes more practical activities related to security-and-confidence-building and to the implementation of existing agreements. Europe's support and training for Palestinian anti-terrorism measures is one example; another has been the EU Special Envoy's efforts to work out a code-of-conduct for Israeli-Palestinian relations during negotiations.

In the context of peace negotiations or crisis containment, there will be a recurrent need to employ the special relations that Brussels, Paris, Berlin or others maintain with individual states in the Middle East, particularly with Syria and Lebanon or Iran. France's efforts to make Teheran a silent partner in the so-called "April understanding" – the cease-fire agreement that ended Israel's 1996 "Operation Grapes of Wrath" and led to the establishment of the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group (ILMG) - is a good example, even though at that time it was not appreciated by the US administration.

As this example demonstrates, Europe and European institutions should remain active organisers of second track initiatives.

Europe also has an important role in institution-building. This applies to regional frameworks as well as to institution-building in the Palestinian Territories.

There could be a limited European military peace-keeping role, if and where the regional parties so wish. This will most likely apply to Israel and Syria after an agreement over Israeli withdrawal from the Golan.

Generally, European policy-makers will have to accept that most of Europe's less highly visible contributions to the process are nevertheless highly political. This includes, but is not restricted to, mid-to-long-term financial commitments. US policy makers will have to acknowledge that the European contribution is essential enough to necessitate regular consultations and co-ordination – rather than only information or briefing sessions by the Americans for their European colleagues. And both Europeans and Americans have to be aware that their influence on events in the Middle East is limited.

US View of the Peace Process

Graham E. Fuller

1. Strengths of the United States

The US brings the tradition and experience of leadership to global affairs since the beginning of the Cold War. Only Washington, for example, could have produced the Camp David agreement and maintained the ability to summon regional leaders to Washington for summit meetings.

Washington possesses the financial and military resources to bear upon the peace process; it has a large body of experienced personnel available to work on the many details of the project. US policies also have demonstrated a great deal of energy to persist in the project. American financial resources are also important for funding the eventual peace, as after Camp David.

American policy-making combines governmental bodies with the resources of a large group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that support the policy process. There are more intimate links between policy-makers and the private world of think-tanks and policy analysis groups than in any other country, that helps to facilitate the process.

The world is familiar with the reality of US clout and weight in international affairs; it is difficult to exclude it. Furthermore, US policies can affect positively or negatively other countries in other arenas if they either co-operate with or stymie US diplomatic efforts.

The US sees the peace process in the broader context of global foreign policy. No other power in the world has either the global reach or the intensity of interest to operate in a global context.

In the US view, it alone has the confidence of Israel which will bring it to an eventual settlement. Washington also believes that if there are too many cooks involved in the process, the necessary results cannot be produced, that there are too many competing agendas. Conversely, Europe is seen as "too pro-Arab" which weakens its ability to influence Israel and causes Europe to be taken for granted by the Arab side. There is furthermore no unified European approach to the peace process and Europe has not been good at consistent follow-through over the years.

The US also brings some broader ideals to Middle East policy as a whole: the vision of a broader global market that will involve the Middle East, and the need for emphasis on issues such as human rights and democratization. Europe, on the other hand, at the individual state level, has taken a more "Realpolitik" view and had less interest in democratization and human rights than in "national interests." (This has been less true of European Parliament approaches.) Europe has also failed to make any significant contribution to the settlement of issues such as Iraq or Iran.

2. Weakness of the US role

The US, despite its claims, is not able to demonstrate genuine objectivity between the Israeli and Arab parties. Its pro-Israeli tilt is well-known to all, and of long standing. This imbalance emerges from the power of the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington, both in government as well as media. (US objectivity has improved, however, since the period of the Netanyahu government which ironically greatly improved US-Palestinian ties.) The peace process team, made up almost exclusively of Jewish Americans, despite its highly professional and dedicated nature, sends the wrong signals, suggesting that US interests in the Middle East are driven exclusively by ethnic politics in the US.

US policy cannot be made with any consistency because of the democratized nature of foreign policy making, involving the Congress as a second major actor. Congress has greatly complicated US foreign policy by conducting its own foreign policy that is particularly inclined to punish the Arab side and reward Israel. This democratization also results in fragmentation of the policy process, making it more subject to local politics.

Accomplishments of the peace process have been modest considering the many decades of activity. Levels of frustration in the region have grown higher.

The US, as long-time leader of the West, also brings a great deal of baggage to the peace process in the Middle East, making it the target of many other groups angry at Washington on issues other than the peace process, such as Iraq, Iran, Russia and China. The US is also the premier target of terrorism in the Middle East, which complicates the American role and often causes it to become distracted by a "counter-terrorism" agenda that raises tensions and weakens the peace process. While some may see the US as "sole superpower," others may view it as "sole hegemon," which creates resentments. US ideals, furthermore, such as human rights and democratization, are often only selectively applied; US double-standards weaken its credibility.

3. Conclusion

The US continues to prefer unilateralism for its advantages of simplicity in policy-making. However Washington will find the unilateral road harder to follow in the years ahead. It is increasingly difficult to form a consensus in the US on foreign policy. The US public will be increasingly less willing to expend either blood or treasure in pursuing distant foreign policy goals unless their linkage to US interests is overwhelmingly evident. American unilateralism, furthermore, has failed to gain the support of US allies in issues such as Iraq, Iran, or Libya.

The peace process will need to become part of a broader approach to foreign policy in the Middle East as a whole, in which regime liberalization or change becomes increasingly urgent. Bad governance across most of the Middle East is responsible for most of its crises, domestic and foreign. Will Europe and Washington face this reality, or will they prefer "business-as-usual" with failing regimes?

Both Washington and Europe need to examine frankly the real nature of conflict of interest between them. (Perhaps this should be the task of joint US-European think-tanks in particular.) Some conflict of interest is natural, and it can be discussed. But such differences are covered up by both sides so far, which makes co-operation more difficult.

Complementarity of US and European Roles in the Peace Process:

Israeli Perspectives

Mark A. Heller

As a first order principle of peacemaking, the predominant view in Israel is that the debate about a division of labor between Europe and the United States is a false debate. The basic Israeli approach is that peace must be made between the parties themselves, and Europeans and Americans who search for complementarity in their roles are therefore discussing a role that is not properly theirs at all. In general, the Israeli preference would be that neither Europe nor the United States have any role at all.

In this, Israel conforms to what appears to be general rule of international relations: that in conflict situations, the stronger party prefers to restrict the arena to the belligerents themselves while the weaker one strives to implicate third parties in the hope of reducing the greater bargaining power of the adversary and introducing some balance into the equation. Thus, India has always insisted on excluding outside actors from its conflict with Pakistan while Pakistan has consistently striven to "internationalize" the question of Kashmir. Similarly, Saudi Arabia has attempted to resolve its territorial/border disputes with Yemen bilaterally while Yemen has sought to introduce other actors.

Israel’s instinctive preference to exclude outsiders from the process of peacemaking has been reinforced by experience: most of the major breakthroughs in the past (Sadat’s visit to Israel, the Oslo Agreement, the Peace Treaty with Jordan) occurred without third-party intervention or were even achieved parallel to stalled efforts by other to mediate conflicts. Nevertheless, it has also been the case that these breakthroughs normally needed some shepherding and follow-through to bring negotiations to fruition and sustain Arab-Israeli relations when post-agreement difficulties emerged. And where the parties were not able even to produce a conceptual breakthrough by themselves, outside mediation was necessary to maintain or revive momentum and sustain the hope for future progress as an alternative to complete stagnation, frustration and deterioration into violence. In every such instance, the major outside actor involved has been the United States, and as the fallback in case bilateral peacemaking proves fruitless, the United States remains the preferred indeed, the only intermediary from the Israeli point of view. If the Europeans have played a secondary if not marginal role in Middle Eastern mediation efforts, that is therefore only partly because of American reluctance to share the role with them; the major factor has been a strong Israeli disinclination to see Europe involved.

Several factors explain this preference. The first is simply that the United States is a fully coherent political-military entity, an "address" to which positions can be communicated and with which problems can be clarified and perhaps resolved; the European Union, for all its progress towards integration, remains an association of sovereign states that have yet to articulate a common foreign and security policy. The problem of policy coherence and authoritativeness does not, of course, apply to individual European states. But from Israel’s perspective, that constitutes a different kind of disadvantage. The unitary nature of Middle East policy-making in most European states (usually by heads of government and/or foreign ministers, often under the strong influence of the foreign policy bureaucracy) means that Israel has little ability to counteract unfavorable trends or tendencies. The United States, by contrast, has a much more pluralistic foreign policy system, providing more points of access for Israeli input. Not only is the executive itself more pluralistic (Israel, for example, has been able over the years to cultivate close ties with the US defense establishment); Congress, the media, and public opinion also play a more independent and influential role than do their European counterparts, providing additional (and receptive) avenues for Israeli influence. Indeed, the multiplicity of contact points (facilitated, but not confined to the American Jewish community) underlies the "special relationship" between Israel and the United States. Finally, and most importantly, Israel has much greater confidence in the ability and willingness of the United States to assume some responsibility for the risks and possible adverse consequences of Israeli decisions taken as a result of mediation/intervention by third parties. The United States has a proven track-record of direct economic and security assistance to Israel and of indirect assistance in the form of greater assertiveness on security issues of concern to Israel (e.g., terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction). Since the collapse of the Franco-Israeli alliance in the mid-1960s, Europe (with the partial exception of Germany) inspires little Israeli confidence on this score. Instead, European policy is perceived as consisting largely of gratuitous declarations.

For all these reasons, Israel has generally shown little enthusiasm for any outside efforts to play an active mediating role in the peace process. But when the dangers of stalemate made that impossible, it accepted or even sought American involvement, while consistently rejecting any similar role for Europe. This was particularly apparent during the three years of the Netanyahu government. It was precisely during this period that expressions of European dissatisfaction and assertive demands for a more prominent role ("to be player and not just a payer") reached their peak and led to the appointment of a Special EU Envoy to the peace process. Ironically, perhaps, this was also when the intensity of American diplomatic mediation reached an unprecedented level (US officials and diplomats imposed and micro-managed negotiations leading to the Hebron Protocol and the Wye River Memorandum). Indeed, the extent and character of American involvement became a vehicle for criticism of Netanyahu by the Israeli opposition, which accused him of dragging the Americans in so deeply, despite their initial hesitation, because his policies created a negotiating vacuum that had to be filled. As a result, the previous pattern of prior close US-Israeli co-ordination was replaced by one of prior close US-Palestinian co-ordination.

There is some evidence that the new Israeli government wants the peace process to revert to its pre-1996 dynamic and to become, once again, primarily a bilateral matter. In other words, it wants to minimize if not preclude any mediating role for both the Americans and the Europeans. This is particularly the case with respect to the Palestinian track, though it will probably accept and even solicit more active American involvement on the Syrian track.


However, third-party involvement in the peace process implies more than just the mediation of agreements. Agreements need to be implemented and peace needs to be sustained and consolidated in both the bilateral and the regional settings. In these dimensions, the United States does not necessarily enjoy a comparative advantage, even from the Israeli perspective. It seems self-evident that the United States will be called upon to underwrite security arrangements, either alone or as the leading element in any multilateral effort.

1. But Europe can make an important contribution to whatever economic and technical assistance is needed to support peace. The widespread assumption that Europe has greater resources to place at the disposal of peace support in the Middle East is not necessarily valid; in general, the American economy has performed better for a prolonged period of time, and this is reflected, inter alia, in budget surpluses and unemployment rates. Nevertheless, Europe has established an impressive record of economic support for the post-Oslo phase of Arab-Israeli peacemaking [economic support for the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty has been largely an American preserve], in the course of which it has amassed considerable experience in Palestinian institution building.

2. And its own experience in regional co-operation is an important asset that could be applied in two ways.

At the present time, it makes Europe the logical candidate to lead efforts to revive the multilateral negotiations and to initiate and/or promote regional economic projects; Europe is also particularly well placed to encourage Track-II activity and interaction between civil societies in the region.

Europe’s own experience also gives it the perspective and expertise necessary, in the post-negotiation phase, to provide inspiration and practical leadership for the web of structural interdependence needed to consolidate formal Arab-Israeli agreements and transform non-belligerency into stable, durable peace.

On the Complementary between the European Union and the United States

regarding the Middle East Peace Process :

A Palestinian Perspective

Mannuel S. Hassassian

1. Introductory Remarks

There is no doubt that Europe and the United States have vital common interests in the Middle East. However, in this unstable and highly volatile region, they are not pursuing a joint strategic agenda, as they usually do in Europe and other troubled areas in the world. Instead, both powers are slipping into mutual rivalry and low level confrontation, a situation that will encourage the rise of fundamentalist and radical regional powers.

It is common knowledge that Europe has greater dependence on imported oil from the Middle East than does the United States. This makes Europe more vulnerable to an energy cut-off from the Middle East. Military power will continue to play a pivotal role in protecting Gulf oil supplies, and the United States is shouldering this responsibility alone, without rivalry from Europe.

This asymmetrical relationship causes low-intensity rivalry, in which regional powers are seriously affected, especially when there is a clear-cut US partiality towards Israel. It is no wonder then, that the Arab countries become factionalized in terms of their patron-client relationships with the United States and Europe. In fact when it comes to the Middle East peace process, the contradictions sometimes intensify, which makes the situation problematic and complex, as recent events in the region have demonstrated.

2. Divergence of US and EU Interests in the Middle East

It is no secret that the United States for the last five decades has maintained a consistent foreign policy towards Israel. Above all, total commitment to Israel's security stands high on the US agenda. Furthermore, the United States has contrived to maintain security arrangements to preserve stability in the Gulf region and access to oil reserves. However, it spared no effort in checking the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and combating terrorism. In addition, the United States has provided access for American business into the region, thus concurrently promoting open political and economic systems.

In contrast to US policy in the Middle East, the Europeans perceive the region as a part of their diplomatic periphery, and hence they are very conscious of the threats of economic migration particularly from North African countries.

Furthermore, Middle East extremism spills over into Europe, and the latter's dependence on North Africa for natural gas and for energy supplies makes it more closely tied to the Middle East region. By and large, the European Union is more dominant than the United States in regional trade with the Middle East. Therefore, the European Union feels that to support the Arabs, it should continue financial and economic support that could culminate in European access to the political arena. Of course, Israel adamantly resists EU's political involvement.

It is worth mentioning that the European Union has failed to adopt a united and a common stand in its foreign policy vis-à-vis the Middle East. As a matter of fact, the EU's role has always been subservient to that of the United States–at least this is the Palestinian and Arab perception of the EU's role in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Of course, it goes without saying that US military hegemony overwhelms the EU's political clout in the Middle East region.

Beside these shortcomings, the European Union enjoys several privileges that culminate in its long historical and traditional cultural links with the Mashriq and the Maghrib. Regardless of this overall relationship with the Arab world, not all European countries are favorable in their political stance towards the Arabs, for there are explicit divisions on this issue.

3. EU Policy in Mediterranean: Suggestions and Recommendations

The EU could be most effective through its economic strength in the following fields:

Know-how transfers

Development and long-term educational initiatives are of utmost importance.

Further, the EU could take some political actions by

sponsoring confidence-building measures

promoting the charter for peace and stability in the Middle East.

being pro-active in co-operative security exercises such as fighting the propagation of weapons of mass destruction

The European Union's use of economic aid and financial assistance for political ends is quite visible in the Mediterranean; however, it should curb its neo-colonial attitudes, as well as strive to create an EU-MED free trade zone. Also, the European Union should emphasise religious dialogue to better understand the real causes of fundamentalism in all religions and the use of preventive diplomacy. In addition, it should bolster the development of democracy and civil society in the Middle East. The European Union should be seriously concerned about the Middle East because of the latter's geo-strategic location which makes its stability and peace a global concern. It is important to note that the cultural, economic, political and security issues in the Middle East region will be at the origin of critical challenges at the beginning of the next millennium. Therefore, secure development is the key to shaping modern peace.

4. EU Role in the Middle East Peace Process

There is no doubt, that the European Union should play a bigger part in the Middle East peace process, and by doing so, it should be careful not to offend or challenge the United States outright, so that the value of EU trade would not be limited or constrained. One anticipation is that in the long-run, the EU's role may be a little more independent. Moreover, EU economic interests in the Middle East are greater than those of the United States, which might lead to a more independent EU intervention policy in the Middle East peace process.

However, there is a need for Arab co-ordination and synchronization if the EU's efforts are going to be instrumental and effective. In fact, the European Union should be prepared to face two key functional challenges:

Countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

Combating terrorism

The European Union penetrated the Middle East as a result of political, security and, above all, economic interest, as well as by separate agreements with the countries of the region. There is no doubt that EU economic involvement in the Middle East is much greater than that of the United States. However, the European Union has failed to influence the process positively or to enforce international law. The Barcelona process, in which the EU tries to combine conflict prevention which co-operation with the Mediterranean countries is in jeopardy – one of major reasons being the stagnation in the peace process between Israel and Palestinians.

The seminal role played by the Europeans in the multilateral negotiations that commenced on January 28-29, 1992 at the Moscow Multilateral Middle East Conference should not be overlooked, however. The goal of the multilateral framework was twofold: to find solutions for key regional problems and to serve as a confidence-building measure to promote the development of normalized relations among the nations of the Middle East. Regardless of the fact that multilateral negotiations were hindered due to the stalemate at the bilateral level, the role of Europe was significant.

In fact, Arab governments and the Palestinians were frustrated with the minimal political role that the European Union performed because of US pressure on them. The Palestinians had always sought a more intensified European role in the peace process to tip the balance of outright US partiality towards Israel, for reasons that had little to do with the Middle East peace process. This level of frustration was manifested occasionally by the Palestinians, but should not hamper a joint EU and US collaborative effort within the context of the Middle East peace process.

5. EU Role in Palestine

It would be unfair not to acknowledge the role of the European Union in the development process in Palestine, especially in infrastructural development as well as in socio-economic developments. The European Union specifically strengthened the organization and funding of Palestinian non-governmental organisations as an integral part of Palestinian civil society. It pushed for democratization and has incessantly encouraged Palestinian transparency, accountability and participatory culture. The EU has also helped Palestinian universities by funding their operational costs since the signing of the Oslo agreement in 1993. In fact, the final tranche of support was delivered to the Ministry of Higher Education via the Palestinian Authority in September 1999.

The European Union also played a pivotal role in normalizing Israeli, Palestinian and Arab relations via academic co-operation and through programs like Med-Campus, UNIMED and PEACE. Let alone, the European Union has a great impact in the area of regional co-operation such as arms control, security, environment and refugees. By and large, the EU's role has been visible in "second track" diplomacy, bridging differences of opinion between Palestinians and Israelis. Yet, with all the assistance rendered, the EU falls short in pressing Israel economically on the latter's stand over issues such as the building of illegal settlements, the confiscation of Palestinian land and home demolishing. And above all, there is no clear-pressure put by the European Union on Israel to remove the economic blockade imposed by Israel on the Palestinians.

6. Palestinian Perspective on the EU – US Complementarity

Diplomatic, economic and military initiatives will definitely play a key role in consolidating an Arab-Israeli peace. However, to achieve a comprehensive peace, the European Union and the United States should concert their efforts not only on perpetuating the peace process, but also in striving towards its progress and finally, its implementation. To do these, joint efforts should be exerted in promoting regional economic development and co-operation, and the European Union should shoulder more than its current share. In support of this joint partnership venture, the European Union and the United States should converge their distinctive and yet separate approaches to addressing the region's economic ill-fate.

However, what is needed at the strategic level is outright co-operation between the European Union and the United States in developing a clearer division of tasks based on the "principles of complementarity." One level would be through the reinforcement of international law as the proper framework for the peace process: enforcement of international law as judiciary medium for the implementation of the peace agreements.

American and European Roles in the Peace Process:

A Syrian-Lebanese perspective

Joseph Bahout

Although it has become conventional wisdom to talk about a unified "Syro-Lebanese track", it is necessary to distinguish between two distinct issues. The Madrid framework itself established a distinction between the two tracks, by specifying in the letters of invitation a "land for peace" rationale under resolution 242 for Syria, whilst Lebanon was concerned with resolution 425 stipulating unconditional withdrawal from the South. This implied that Lebanon would – in a late stage – be involved in peace within a global framework. In that respect, it should be remembered that the decision to go to Madrid provoked a heated internal political debate in Lebanon, precisely because of the visible risk of seeing Lebanon’s diplomatic position entangled in the process, an eventuality that finally occurred. This is not merely a formalistic concern, since – as will be shown below – Europe and the United States have been perceived by Syria as trying to delink the two tracks.

The general rule of international relations and negotiation theory applies to the Syro-Lebanese track. The strongest party – Israel – has an interest in restricting negotiations to a face-to-face situation, while the weakest party has an interest in "counterbalancing" it with a third party. In that respect, the third party has a dual function; first tactically as "honest broker", but more often – at least in a stalemated situation – as a party to negotiation rather than a neutral facilitator. This is where the Arab world appeals to Europe to play the role of "enhancer", knowing that this invitation to Europe ultimately antagonises both the United States and Israel. The truth is that, behind the repeated demands for a greater European role, the US remains – at least for Syria – the ultimate "object of desire". Not only did President Asad know that any real deal would be brokered by the USA, but some analysts even considered that one of the very important by-products of the peace-process for Syria would be the normalisation of its relations with the United States. This is why, more than elsewhere, the usual division of labour between US and the EU applies: American involvement is demanded for "hard diplomacy" matters as well as for security guarantees – a deployment of US troops on the Golan in case of withdrawal – whereas European participation is required at a further stage, for matters of "soft diplomacy" – multilateralism and co-operation –, it being understood that these issues are translated into a financial involvement of Europe in the post-peace period.

This division of labor has sometimes been influenced by Syria's perception of the EU and more specifically of France. This perception is not always a positive or a neutral one, since suspicion has often arisen that some European initiatives, mainly led by the French, could either by-pass the US and thus antagonise it (the abortive Egyptian-French initiative to relaunch the process) or gradually delink Syria and Lebanon (the recurrent French proposals to deploy troops in the South of Lebanon in case of Israeli withdrawal). Conversely, sometimes the suspicion is American, when some European and French initiatives seem to widen Syria’s margin of manoeuvre and to emphasise American permissiveness towards Israel, a good example being the behaviour of both parties during the 1996 "Grapes of Wrath" operation. What gives the European role an edge in the Syro-Lebanese track, compared to the Palestinian one, is the degree of Iranian involvement, through the Lebanese resistance in the South, and the fairly good relations that Europe as a whole maintains with Teheran. This has allowed the European Union to play certain brokerage roles that were not available to the United States.

Any comparison between US and EU roles in the Syrian-Lebanese arena has to take into account an additional factor, that of past legacies. Lebanon and Syria, less directly, retain negative images inherited from past years of war (especially after 1983-84), particularly of the US. (It was only in 1987 that the US embargo on American citizens travelling to Lebanon was lifted and Syria is still listed as a state supporting terrorism by the US state department). In return, the "West" suffers from negative perceptions in popular political culture – especially in a country like Syria, where strong anti-imperialist ideologies hold sway. However, this is much more directed towards the US than it is towards Europe, a fact that any observer can notice by reading slogans on the walls of certain areas of Beirut. The "cultural factor" is an argument often used to also assert that Europe, being closer to the Near-East than the US, benefits from an edge in its diplomacy there. Although this is undeniably true, it has to be qualified by two remarks. First, the French "colonial heritage" is not always positively valued (in Syria probably more than in Lebanon). Second, new Arab elites in politics and in businesses, when they are "Westernised", are gradually more "Americanised" than "Europeanised". Furthermore, they seem keen to enter globalisation through its American, "golden" portal. On the other hand, it could also be said that in the short and medium term some comparative advantages regarding the post-peace competition between the US and Europe in the commercial and cultural fields give a relative edge to Europe, since it is already present in many of these fields (France and Italy in Lebanon, Germany in Syria). These factors will undoubtedly play a role in any future sub-regional co-operation once a just and comprehensive peace is achieved.

Complementarity between US and European Roles in the Peace Process:

Lebanese Perspective

Nadim Shehadi

Amongst the parties involved in the present Middle East Peace Process, Lebanon is probably in the weakest position in terms of its power to secure its demands. It suffers from an image problem which is a major hurdle in its rehabilitation in an international community that still considers Lebanon a fragile war torn and divided country unable to control its destiny. One of the constants of Lebanese foreign policy has been to seek guarantees for its sovereignty through Western protection rather than by military means. A Lebanese outlook to complementarity between the US and Europe is dictated by the drive to seek such protection. This is all the more important when it comes to the Middle East peace process where the recognised dominant power is the US and Europe is seen as the balancing force.

Foreign policy in Lebanon is very much a domestic issue related to internal politics and regulated by a compromise between the communities over Lebanon's external relations and identity. This compromise, the National Pact of 1943, was repeated with some modifications in the Taif agreement of 1989, on the basis of which the civil war ended. One of the fundamental issues in the dispute was related to the Arab vs. Western identity of Lebanon. The result of the compromise is a constant thread in Lebanese foreign policy, which has always had two aspects, a regional and an international one.

The regional aspect aims at securing internal peace between the communities, whereas the international one seeks to check the power of the regional ally and to guarantee Lebanon's sovereignty.

On the regional level, the Lebanese State has sought an alliance or a pact with whoever was perceived as the Arab strong man of the time. This was repeated with Nuri Es Said of Iraq at the time of President Chamoun in the 50's, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt with President Fuad Chehab and later with Yasser Arafat and Hafez El Asad of Syria. Overall, Arab influence was also balanced and checked by inter-Arab rivalry on the Lebanese scene. Iraq, Libya, or Saudi Arabia occasionally played such a balancing role on the regional front. The assumption was that whenever such an alliance with the regional strong man was in trouble, that spelt internal problems for Lebanon.

On the international level, Lebanese foreign policy sought the protection of the West as a guarantee of the state's existence. The idea of protection is deeply rooted in the Lebanese psyche and there is a whole mythology attached to it. Historically, the myth draws on two periods of prosperity in Lebanese history : the early 17th century, when the then Emir of mount Lebanon - Fakhreddine II Maan - was under the protection of the Medicis. and the period of the Mutassarifyah between 1862 and 1914, when Mount Lebanon was under the protection of western powers in an agreement reached after the 1860 civil war. The assumption here is whenever international protection is lifted, Lebanon is doomed.

1. Foreign policy and the West

Lebanon thus never considered itself as neutral in the cold war. It was definitely on the US side. The similarity with Switzerland stopped at snowy peaks and banking secrecy. Lebanese foreign policy was firmly directed towards the maintenance of western or American protection. The shift from France to the US as the main protector occurred gradually during the 1940's with the recognition of the decline of European power and the inevitability of American supremacy. So the question of Europe vs. the US was resolved fairly early on after independence. Relations with France remained significant but were more dependent on personalities such as General De Gaulle and on personal relations like those between PM Rafic Hariri and Jacques Chirac. Strategically, Lebanon was in the American camp at a time when the strong man of the region, with whom it had to deal, was generally in the Soviet camp.

The Multinational Forces that were sent to Lebanon in the aftermath of the 1982 Israeli invasion are an example of the exercise of Western protection. The withdrawal or 'redeployment' of the American forces of the MNF was thus seen as a watershed in Lebanese history: it was interpreted as signifying the lifting of western protection. All the diplomatic efforts of the state have been directed at re-establishing this protection. But regional and international changes have altered the patterns within which the policy operates.

2. Lebanon and the Peace Process

Lebanon emerged from the civil war in 1990 to find a completely new regional and international configuration. The main components of this change were the end of the cold war, the emergence of Syria as an ally of the United States in the Gulf War Coalition and the disappearance of Iraq as a regional actor. The Taif agreement gave Lebanon special relations with Syria but there was no check or balance to Syria's influence in the country. The Gulf war neutralised other Arab powers and it was only later that countries like Saudi Arabia could play any balancing role.

Lebanon's unenviable position can be summarised in the following manner: its regional ally is also allied to the extra-regional power that can play the role of international protector, leaving the influence of the regional ally unchecked.

The Middle East Peace Process, which took off at Madrid in 1991, came at a time when Lebanese policy makers were still discovering what their real position was in this new regional and international configuration. It was difficult for Lebanon to re-establish a balanced foreign policy, that would give it freedom and room for manoeuvre. The United States was still traumatised by the experience of the MNF, the blowing up of the Marines in Beirut and the Hostage crisis, and was not ready to re-engage in Lebanon. Europe has always played a marginal role in the peace process and it is obvious to all players in the region that the address is Washington.

When Lebanon was invited to Madrid, there was an intense debate within the country as to whether it should participate. The main agenda of Madrid was based on Land for Peace and mainly for territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war, in which Lebanon did not participate. The main argument was that participation would create a linkage between otherwise unrelated Israeli withdrawals. The withdrawal from the Israeli occupied security zone in South Lebanon was governed by UN Security Council resolution 425 and was not subject to negotiations, as there were no conflicting territorial claims over the Lebanon/Israel border. It was felt that this was a straightforward matter that should be resolved independently and much more quickly than the rest of the problems of the area.

Lebanon's main concern in the Peace Process was and still is the issue of refugees, who are seen as a security threat and a demographically destabilising factor. The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are mainly from the Galilee and other areas now considered as Israel proper, and there is little or no prospect that they will return. They represent the fundamental problem in the Middle East Peace Process, one that is seen as irresolvable. Lebanon's fear is that the non-resolution of this problem will be at its expense, through the permanent 'settlement' of the refugees in Lebanese territory.

The Oslo process, by fragmenting the Arab negotiating position, left no mechanism for a multilateral discussion of this problem. Final status negotiations over the refugees issue are to be held between Israel and the PLO without co-ordination with host countries or the refugees themselves, most of whom are hostile to the PLO.

The Oslo process and the subsequent treaty with Jordan also left Lebanon and Syria as the only two countries adjacent to Israel with which it has no peace treaties. This created a strategic link between the two countries and rendered Lebanon's negotiating position inextricable from that of Syria, although both countries have different priorities. For Syria, the question of withdrawal from the Golan is the top priority, while the issue of refugees is hardly raised. For Lebanon, Israeli withdrawal from the region it occupies in the south is linked to withdrawal from the Golan, but there is little regional or international sympathy for its position on refugees. Thus, the concern in Beirut is that the refugees issue in the peace process will be resolved at its expense. Although Lebanese-Syrian relations are at their best, the conflict of interest between them is bound to surface when negotiations begin.

In the debate between Europe and the United States over the complementarity of their roles in the peace process, the US is very much perceived as calling the shots with Europe helping to fill the gaps. There is tension whenever an individual European country tries grabbing an opportunity and playing a role that is not in tune with American policy. France is the foremost candidate to be the opportunist and is also the country Lebanon would mostly turn to for assistance. France played a major role in resolving the situation that led to the April 1996 understanding after Israel's operation Grapes of Wrath.

3. Conclusion

The main conclusion I would like to venture is that, for a country like Lebanon, complementarity between the US and Europe is not what it should be looking for. The options are either changing the American position to one that is more sensitive to Lebanon's interests or seeking a European role that will act as a counterbalance to the American policy. If such a role were to exist, Lebanon would turn to France. Lebanese French relations are, however, not at their best since the election of President Emile Lahoud and his ousting of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who has special relations with President Chirac. Given the likelihood that the Lebanese-Syrian track will be revived and that Final Status talks will move forward, the coming year is bound to be critical.