Former European leaders call for urgent change in EU policy towards Israel

A prominent group of former European prime ministers, foreign ministers and diplomats have written a letter to the European Union to call for a reevaluation of its policy towards Israeli occupation and the potential for a Palestinian state in the aftermath of Benjamin Netanyahu's reelection for a fourth term and the creation of a right-wing coalition government.

In the letter, addressed to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the European Eminent Persons Group argue that EU aid to the region has only resulted in the "preservation of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and imprisonment of Gaza".

"Europe has yet to find an effective way of holding Israel to account for the way it maintains the occupation," the letter reads. "It is time now to demonstrate to both parties how seriously European public opinion takes contraventions of international law, the perpetration of atrocities and the denial of established rights."

"The re-election of Binyamin Netanyahu as Israeli prime minister and the construction of a new Israeli coalition government now requires urgent action by the EU to construct a coherent and effective policy on the question of Palestine," it adds.

The statement, likely to be controversial within Israel, was signed by a number of high profile figures such as former Nato secretary-general Javier Solana, former Irish prime minister John Bruton, former French prime minister Michel Rocard, former Dutch prime minister Andreas van Agt, former UK ambassador to the UN Sir Jeremy Greenstock and two former French foreign ministers, Roland Dumas and Hubert Vedrine, as reported by The Guardian.

The statement also recommends that the EU unite to either recognise a Palestinian government for a future state within the pre-1967 borders (before the 'Six Day War') or set a deadline for talks over a two-state agreement.

"If this means recognition of a Palestine government-in-waiting for the territories within the pre-1967 borders, or the setting of a deadline for the negotiation of a two-state solution, the EU should be united in support," it continues.

The figures also recommend that such a policy rethink should be taken with urgency because of Netanyahu's recent comments during the Israeli election campaign in which he said that he would never establish a Palestinian state while he was in power, although he later backtracked on this statement after his victory. On polling day, he warned right-wing Likud party supporters that Arab citizens of Israel were turning up to the polls in their "droves" in order to secure his re-election.

"Mr Netanyahu expressed various views on Palestine in and around the recent election campaign, most of them cold to the concept of an independent Palestinian state," the letter says. "We are convinced in our own minds that he has little intention of negotiating seriously for a two-state solution within the term of this incoming Israeli government. We also have low confidence that the US government will be in a position to take a lead on fresh negotiations with the vigour and the impartiality that a two-state outcome demands.

"Yet the situation on the ground grows steadily more dangerous. It has received less priority attention recently than certain other parts of a very disturbed region, but conditions in the occupied territories remain high on the list of the world's worst crises in terms not just of political flammability, but also of the denial of international justice, human rights and humanitarian standards."

The letter comes after US president Barack Obama said that the Palestinian people "deserve an end to the occupation" in an exclusive interview with Arabic outlet Asharq al-Awsat.

"I will never give up on the hope for peace between Israelis and Palestinians," said Obama. "Palestinians deserve an end to the occupation and the daily indignities that come with it. That's why we've worked so hard over the years for a two-state solution and to develop innovative ways to address Israel's security and Palestinian sovereignty needs."

A representative from Benjamin Netanyahu's office was not immediately available for comment.