Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland (the European Union's new chief diplomat in the likely case you don't know her) isn't exactly what one would call "experienced." Perhaps to shed her much-deserved reputation as a foreign-policy novice, she used her maiden speech in the European Parliament to fuel the Continent's No. 1 international-affairs obsession: trashing the Jewish state.
"We're deeply concerned about daily living conditions of people in Gaza," she told law makers last week. "Israel should reopen the crossings without delay."
It's rather odd, to say the least, that no sooner had Israel left Gaza in 2005, than the same people who so anxiously had called for Israel to "end the occupation" wanted it back in the picture. Even though Hamas returned Israel's peace gesture with relentless rocket attacks, Israel is nevertheless expected to establish some sort of free-trade zone with the Islamists and open its borders again to Palestinian suicide bombers.
Egypt, the Palestinians' Arab brother nation, meanwhile, can quietly build a steel wall—yes, steel—at its Gaza border without having to fear negative Western press coverage, let alone the Baroness's wrath. She has only Israel in her crosshairs, even though Jerusalem is actually still providing a lifeline to the Palestinians.
Despite all the misreporting about a "humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza as a result of Israel's blockade, the flow of aid support from Israel to the narrow strip is uninterrupted. In the week of Dec. 13 -Dec. 19 alone, 553 truckloads with 13,587 tons of merchandise reached Gaza from Israel, according to the Israeli foreign ministry.
The result is obvious. For an authentic look at life in Gaza, check out the photos of crowded markets filled with food, clothing and candy, published last month on the Web site of "Palestine Today," a Gaza newspaper, as first reported on these pages by Mideast analyst Tom Gross (http://www.paltoday.com/arabic/News-64161.html).
It is not surprising, perhaps, that the Baroness cannot
summon insights into the Gaza situation. She cannot get the EU's own policy
The EU's new foreign-policy grandee apparently will not look beyond the legalistic objections to the barrier's trajectory to see the immense benefits it has brought to both parties. The barrier helped prevent Palestinian terrorism, thus bringing security to Israelis and Palestinians, which in turn was instrumental in paving the road for the Palestinian territories' recent economic revival. And without this return of calm and security, Israel could never be expected to make further concessions for peace.
Almost as revealing as Lady Ashton's criticism of Israel was her silence about continued Palestinian incitement to violence or Hamas's brutal rule in Gaza. While lambasting Israel's "occupation," she failed to acknowledge that it is the Palestinians' refusal to restart negotiations rather than Israeli intransigence that stands in the way of a Palestinian state.
Lady Ashton plans her first official visit to the region early next year. It's a shame that the good Baroness didn't go on such a fact-finding trip before bashing the Mideast's only true democracy.
Gerardo Joffe, President