European Parliament Ratifies Trade Agreements with Israel

The Parliament of Europe voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve three economic agreements with Israel it had rejected in March.

The accords were signed by Israel and the 12 nation European Community in 1987. The first, known as the financial agreement, was endorsed by a 314-25 vote, with 19 abstentions. Ratification requires a minimum of 260 votes.

In view of the strong showing, the other two accords were carried by a show of hands, without count.

This was a major victory for Israel and reversal of sentiment in the 518 member parliament, which is the European Community’s legislative body.

The outcome was virtually assured when Claude Cheysson of France, the community’s commissioner for Mediterranean policy, removed an issue that was partly responsible for the rebuff Israel suffered at the hands of the parliament seven months ago.

He submitted a written statement affirming that Israel will not hinder Palestinian agricultural exports to the European Common Market from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This satisfied the European Democratic Group in the legislature, primarily British Conservatives, who had asked for the assurances.

The Socialists, the largest single faction, had already announced they would approve the agreements, as did the French Gaullists and the Liberals.

PALESTINIAN UPRISING AT ISSUE

Most of the negative votes were cast by the Greens and a few Socialists who refused to follow the party line. Several British Conservatives either abstained or voted against.

Cheysson expressed satisfaction after the voting. He attributed the outcome to Israel’s agreement to allow the Palestinians to export their citrus and other agricultural produce under their own label and independently of the Israeli government’s export agencies.

Though that had been a paramount issue in March, an unspoken reason for the rejection was widespread dissatisfaction with Israel’s handling of the Palestinian uprising in the administered territories.

The uprising continues unabated, But the Western Europeans appear now to be more even handed in their appraisal of it.

But several deputies cautioned that their decision to no longer oppose ratification of the trade accords should not be interpreted as approval of Israel’s policies in the territories, but rather as “an encouragement to international negotiations.”

Rudi Arndt, the Socialist leader, said his group had decided to back ratification to show Israel “our friendship, but also our determination to obtain an international peace conference and direct Israeli Palestinian talks.”

Arndt last month hosted a meeting here with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat. The Socialists said this week they not only favor dialogue with Arafat, but can also “make concrete gestures in favor of Israel.”

The European Parliament was expected to approve similar economic agreements with Syria later Wednesday. It could hardly therefore have turned down the accords with Israel.

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