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Eyes Wide Shut: The European Union and the Arab Minority in Israel


Israel-Palestine has been a constant agenda item in EU foreign policy. Yet there is one dimension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that EU policy has largely sidelined: the Arab minority in Israel. The EU is aware of the problems of the Arab citizens of Israel. Yet such awareness has not translated into an EU policy towards the minority. Conditionality has never been considered an adequate policy mechanism with which to influence the situation of the Arab minority. More surprisingly, the EU has tended to focus only marginally on the minority through its declaratory diplomacy and its dialogue with and assistance to Israel. Stemming from this analysis, this article explores the reasons why the EU has tended not to focus on this issue in the context of its multifaceted relationship with Israel. The reasons are both context-specific and general. Generally, in view of the undefined nature of national minorities and minority rights in international and EU laws, the EU has tended not to focus on minority rights in its external action. Specifically, the EU has shied away from acknowledging and acting upon the link between the deterioration of the status of the Arab minority and the broader exacerbation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Paradoxically, it is precisely the EU's approach to Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that underpins its lack of policy towards the minority.