GENEVA (AP) — Europe could provide the key to success for a U.S.-brokered resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians, prominent American academic Noam Chomsky said Friday.
Without intervention by Europe, which could use its political and economic weight, the talks likely won't amount to much, Chomsky told reporters and guests at the Geneva Press Club, in a visit sponsored by the Swiss foreign ministry.
But if Europe broke from American policies supporting Israel, he said, that could swing momentum toward a breakthrough.
Preliminary peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians agreed to after a shuttle mission by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are to begin in Washington Tuesday.
Both sides have low expectations for the new U.S. peace initiative since Israeli-Palestinian talks over the terms of a Palestinian state have been frozen for five years amid disagreement even on the rules for negotiations, including the principles for drawing a border between them.
"It's hard to be optimistic, but Europe could play a role," said Chomsky. "By and large, Europe has not developed an independent Middle East policy."
The European Union's biggest trading partner is the United States, but Israel also is an important trading partner for the 28-nation EU in the Mediterranean region. About a third of Israel's exports go to the EU, and an even higher proportion of Israel's imports come from the EU.
Chomsky said the United States should not act as mediator because it is not neutral.
He told reporters that Europe "consistently follows the U.S. stand," which he said punishes Palestinians whose land is settled by Israelis, and "there's no reason why Europe should support illegal settlements."
Chomsky, a linguist and philosopher who rose to prominence as one of the leading opponents of the Vietnam War, is a fierce critic of the U.S. government and Israel, which banned him in 2010. Last year, during his first visit to the Gaza Strip, he called on Israel to end its blockade of the territory run by the Islamic militant group Hamas.