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Meet Catherine Ashton, Tony Blair’s pro-Israel proxy in the EU

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Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Catherine Ashton and Tony Blair in Jerusalem, June 19, 2011. (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO/ Flickr)

Beneath the radar of the US media, Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded in blocking a statement by European Union member states that would have included sharp criticism of illegal Israeli settlement activity and of the general direction of the peace process. Kerry and Netanyahu depended on Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of Foreign Affairs for the EU and a proxy of Quartet Special Representative Tony Blair, to prevent EU member states from delivering the statement at a June 24 Council gathering in Brussels.

In the past year, several European governments have issued declarations calling for a new diplomatic approach to Israel. In April, the Dutch Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs released a report in April that recommended “calling [Israel] to account for violating the law,” and urged reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.

Meanwhile, Irish Tanaiste (the country’s foreign minister) Eamon Gilmore has vowed to use Ireland’s position as President of the EU Council to advance a comprehensive boycott of products from Israeli settlements. And in recent weeks, Irish Palestine solidarity activists have gained traction in local district councils with proposals for settlement product bans, sparking a retaliatory campaign of lawfare and intimidation by Irish pro-Israel groups.

At the EU Council meeting last month, the foreign ministries of the United Kingdom and France planned to advance a united EU call for labeling Israeli settlement products and a condemnation of Israeli abuses of Palestinians living in the West Bank’s Area C. Release on the eve of Kerry’s trip to Jerusalem, the statement would have offered a dramatic rebuke of Washington’s business-as-usual attitude. But the EU ministers were stymied by Ashton, who had just met with Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem.

During the meeting, Netanyahu told Ashton that if she did not block the EU statement, she would open the door for “laying the responsibility for failure on Israel’s shoulders” while giving the Palestinians “a blank check.” Despite Netanyahu’s plans to authorize 930 new homes in the East Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa, Ashton acceded to his request.

Days later, in Brussels, she announced (PDF) that she was “completely supporting John Kerry’s efforts” — even though she did not know a single detail about what Kerry planned to do when he arrived in Jerusalem. “He will tell us all about these proposals when he’s ready to do so,” Ashton promised.

During the 1980’s, Ashton served as treasurer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a left-wing British anti-war group that urged immediate détente with the Soviet Union. In the 90’s, she rode the wave of New Labor, rising through the ranks of the party under the wing of Tony Blair. In 1999, Blair made Ashton a Labor life peer, entitling her to a seat in the House of Lords. Within a decade, Ashton had secured an appointment as Europe’s top diplomat, giving her control of the EU’s foreign service and a generous salary of around $41,500 a month. Before this, she had no experience in international relations and had never been elected to office.

Since entering the job, Ashton has demonstrated her fealty to Blair at almost every turn. According to a source familiar with proceedings inside the European Union External Action Service (EEAS), which advises Ashton, she has repeatedly stopped meetings to wonder aloud, “What would Tony think about this proposal?” Ashton and Blair joined forces last year to stifle the Palestinian Authority’s campaign for statehood at the UN, a futile maneuver that pitted them against almost the entire EU. She has since worked to eliminate the position of the EU special envoy to the peace process, a move seemingly aimed at further marginalizing European influence. Ashton’s suppression of the EU Council conclusions at Brussels in June represented the culmination of her efforts to keep the US and Israel in the driver’s seat, with Blair playing the third wheel.

Having successfully suppressed European dissension that might have disrupted Kerry’s public relations strategy, Ashton was off to Bahrain, where three EU-Bahraini dual nationals languished in prison for their role in peaceful protests that were violently crushed by the autocratic regime. Seated beside the Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid ibn Ahmad Al Khalifa at a press conference, Ashton and her counterpart “underlined the importance of further strengthening EU-GCC ties,” according to Bahrain’s official news agency.

Back in Jerusalem, Kerry struck an upbeat tone, announcing that he had made “real progress,” and that “the start of final-status negotiations could be within reach.” When asked by reporters for details, however, he was unable to provide any.

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Netanyahu appears to do a magic trick for Catherine Ashton and Tony Blair. Ashton and Blair exchange glances, look confused. (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO/ Flickr)
About Max Blumenthal

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author.

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11 Responses

  1. FreddyV
    July 1, 2013, 10:59 am

    You forgot to mention Ashton meeting with Netanyahu after talks with Iran. Strange. I would have thought she’d report to the EU first, possibly the UK second. Oh no, she reports to Israel who aren’t even NPT members……

    • James Canning
      James Canning
      July 1, 2013, 6:14 pm

      FreddyV – – Lady Ashton is aware of the control of the US Congress enjoyed by Israel lobby, and how that control is used to block a P5+1 deal with Iran.

  2. amigo
    July 1, 2013, 11:16 am

    How can she smile in the company of these two slimy war criminals.

    Has she no shame or self respect.

  3. HarryLaw
    July 1, 2013, 11:30 am

    Another politician singing for her supper, and what a supper $45’500 per month, in an article for Mondoweiss in September 2011 Ira Glunts detailed Ashton’s complicity in a contemptible arrangement with Blair to stop the Palestinians going to the ICC.In her talks with Netanyahu, Ashton raised the French-Spanish proposal to upgrade the status of Palestine at the UN to a non-member state, similar to the status of the Vatican, in exchange for the Palestinian concession not to bring Israel before the International Criminal Court. Netanyahu rejected the proposal.

  4. Parity
    July 1, 2013, 1:02 pm

    It is hard to imagine why the EU plan to condemn Israel and label settlement products could in any way have hindered the “talks.” Because Israel holds all the cards, the pressure needs to be put on Israel.

  5. piotr
    July 1, 2013, 1:13 pm

    Ashton made some statements in the past that provoke fury in Israel, so I thought she is better than that. I thought the same about Tony Blair before he exposed himself as a total liar by supporting Bush war. Blair and his ilk are true blot on humanity, Zionists at least believe is something (to make a comparison).

    European population seems on the average less naive than in USA, but politicians tend to be divided into idiots and “believe nothing” Blair types. My impression is that the support for Israel is thin and it is getting thinner, but the opposition is thin too — people care about their own problems, while “believe nothing” types just try to be as pro-American as they can.

    Still, I was surprised by reactions in Poland for the vote in UN abstaining about provisional Palestinian membership. It was furious. There exists a “hasbara brigade” of commenters, but they overslept and first 200 or so comments on newspaper website ranged from snide to angry. Foreign minister disclosed his voting intentions only DURING the vote, which shows that he knew how unpopular it is. One of a relatively mild epitets was “American errand boy”. One argument that he raised, that Germany did the same thing was of course derided, but I really liked a retort for “this vote is not conducive for negotiations”: “What! Those are negotiations of a whip with an arse”. “Of whip with arse” (dupy z batem) is used for extremely lopsided confrontations, e.g. a 0-7 result in a soccer match be described in a sport section as “A meeting of a whip with an arse”. So “negotiations” are just another occasion for Israel to whip the Palestinians.

    • James Canning
      James Canning
      July 1, 2013, 6:13 pm

      @piotr – – Yes, Lady Ashton has made comments that infuriate Netanyahu et al. We need more of them.

  6. anthonybellchambers
    July 1, 2013, 3:35 pm

    It would appear that Blair and Ashton are both fully paid up members of the US-Israel lobby that has such influence over American foreign policy in the Middle East and in Europe – but the US Israel lobby is a privately funded, unelected political pressure group that is only answerable to its funders.

    Is that democracy? And should Ashton who is appointed by the EU to look after its interests in foreign affairs be apparently working for those who who carry out illegal covert surveillance on us instead of working in the interests of those who pay her salary? Something smells off here!

  7. ToivoS
    July 1, 2013, 5:52 pm

    This is such an old story. The purpose of the “peace” process with Israel is to prevent any action to pressure them because it might disrupt the Talks. Over and over this game is played. It is absolutely amazing that it still works after 23 years.

    The Europeans know it is all a scam. The fact that continue to capitulate means they are part of the scam. Israel is not popular with European public so their leaders must posture now and then by demanding that Israel behaves, but when nothing happens they can say they were out maneuvered by Ashton. They have the power to remove her. Not doing so gives away their complicity.

    In any case, BDS must operate at the grass roots level, from there pressure can be brought to bear on the European governments.

  8. James Canning
    James Canning
    July 1, 2013, 6:11 pm

    I think John Kerry should welcome EU condemnation of illegal Jewish colonies in the West Bank. Etc. Welcome it.

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