Rabin Urges Europe to Help End the Arab Boycott Against Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called on Europe last week to help eliminate the Arab boycott against Israel and to increase its involvement in the Middle East peace process.

In an address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe here last Wednesday, Rabin said Israel had “made concessions in return for the abolition of the boycott” but “the boycott is still used as an illegitimate weapon against Israel.”

“Europe’s resolve and our joint cooperation can halt such actions once and for all,” he said.

“For over 40 years, the Arab boycott has been a tool in the war against Israel, even though it contradicts the fundamental principle of free trade, as espoused” in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, “and in our joint free-trade agreement,” the prime minister said.

“European states have all deplored its existence, though only a small minority have taken concrete steps to eliminate it,” he observed.

In recent days, there have been hopeful signs that the Arab League may consider abolishing its boycott against Israel, which was established before the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.

Last Wednesday, the foreign minister of the Persian Gulf state of Qatar announced during a news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher that “we are ready to take some actions” regarding the termination of the boycott.

And earlier this month, the Arab League’s secretary-general, Esmat Abdel-Meguid, told U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown that the league will consider rescinding its so-called secondary and tertiary boycotts at its next ministerial meeting in March.

The secondary boycott imposes trading sanctions against companies doing business with Israel. The tertiary boycott imposes sanctions on companies that trade with firms that have broken the terms of the secondary boycott.

‘EUROPE HAS A MAJOR ROLE TO FULFILL’

Rabin, in his speech before the Parliamentary Assembly, also called on Europe to increase its involvement in the Middle East peace process.

“I believe Europe has a major role to fulfill on the arduous road to peace,” he said. He suggested this role should be to “contribute to the transformation of the region through economic development and cooperation, rehabilitating refugees, developing water and natural resources, solving environmental problems and regulating arms control.”

But he questioned Europe’s “ambivalent” attitude toward Israel.

“I would like to see more understanding concerning our political positions, our security concerns and our economic needs,” he said.

“Israel is ready for peace and is willing to take risks and make dramatic decisions. But any risk or decision should be well-calculated, for hasty actions could bring upon us irreversible results,” he warned.

Speaking about Syria, which returned to the negotiating table with Israel this week in Washington after four months of suspended talks, Rabin acknowledged that “our negotiations with Syria have been, since their beginning, serious, open — and progress has been made.”

But he asked the European countries to call on Syrian President Hafez Assad “to walk the extra mile in order to meet us in the middle of the road for peace and assure us a high degree of security about Syria’s long-term intentions.”

Rabin was invited to speak before the Council of Europe by its secretary-general, Catherine Lalumiere of France.

The council, which includes 32 nations from Western, Central and Eastern Europe, has played an important role in promoting the integration of Europe on the basis of the values of democracy and freedom.

In this context, Rabin insisted in his speech that the council lead the fight against the resurgence of racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance.

“We call upon you to vigorously oppose the growth of neo-Nazi movements,” he told the assembly.

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