Susanna Terstal

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You are Susanna Terstal, EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process


Background/Early Life

You are Susanna Terstal — current EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, and career diplomat hailing from the Netherlands. After several years studying in both Europe and the United States, you, upon realizing that you desired to pursue foreign policy, joined the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Initially, your work was more focused on actual policymaking, and you resided in Europe for about two decades. Eventually, in 2012, you served as Dutch Ambassador to Angola in 2012. In 2015, you were thrust quickly into the challenging world of hands-on, global diplomacy when you were assigned to represent both the Netherlands and EU as a whole in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran is no stranger to tensions with the Western world, and from 2015-2017 all of Europe had faith in your ability to maintain already-fragile relations with Iran. You met personally with now-Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other leaders, and you are considered to have done a solid job in the Islamic Republic — a place that is by no means whatsoever an easy place to move, especially from your past places of residence Amsterdam and Geneva.

Your Role

Congratulations, Susanna! As you already know, you have been appointed EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process. What is this, you might be asking? After all, the European Union is not a state (although it is a single entity!). First of all, it’s worth noting that the phrase “Middle East Peace Process” is intentionally vague; that is to say, there are a number of ongoing conflicts across the Greater Middle East (depends on what map you’re looking at). Oftentimes, you’ll be dealing with the complicated Arab-Israeli Conflict. Sometimes, you may be dealing with regional tensions between the Kurds and the Turkish authorities. Perhaps you’d be responsible for brokering a peace deal in Yemen. It should be clear now: there will be no shortage of conflicts you’re responsible for addressing, and your work is undoubtedly cut out for you. You report to Josep Borrell — High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Essentially, he’s the embodiment of what foreign policy-based beliefs and positions the European Union collectively represents at a given point in time. Although your role will require creativity and problem-solving, it is important to remember that your priority is not to think as an individual or a Dutch person — you represent all of the European Union member states. Your opinion comes second to the EU’s political platforms, which are out of your control. Bear in mind that you will still have plenty of opportunities to think on your feet! Your role should not constrain you, but instead just keep you in check. Remember: the world’s eyes are on you, even if they can’t see you every day on the nightly news.

Whether the world likes it or not, much like the United States, the EU always has a seat at the table when it comes to brokering major peace deals. You, Ms. Terstal, are that seat for the time being. Think of it, in a way, like acting: You must learn to be the EU at any and all functions attended. You will not only be traveling across the Middle East, but worldwide. You will visit heads of state to discuss Middle East-related issues, as well as large conferences and events focusing on those same topics.

Your Views

You are the European Union. Therefore, you have a “moderate” stance when it comes to most conflicts; in other words, you will not be a radical in any way, shape, or form. For example, you are an advocate of the two-state plan for peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict. You, as a moderate, do not support the West Bank settlements by Israel and would oppose any annexation plan. At the same time, you are not limited to critique of the Israeli government; you also take issue with the use of terror-based violence by organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas on the Palestinian side of the conflict. You believe this to be a threat to the peace process, and respect Israel’s right to defend its borders. Privately, you are believed by the media to empathize with the Palestinians more than previous holders of your position, although this is not to say that you are truly biased. You hold both sides in high esteem as far as the public is concerned. As far as other conflicts are concerned, it’s worth doing a deeper dive into EU policies to learn what platforms you should represent in official duties.

Keep in Mind…

Although you have indeed held a few noteworthy positions, especially since your time in Angola, you are generally not a face to be seen often as far as the general public is concerned. This is not to downplay your importance, but the fact of the matter is that your work is arguably more important than the work of those who shake hands in front of television cameras. You are a true diplomat — someone who has years of experience domestically, regionally, and now internationally working with foreign nations across the world. You need to focus on being where you are needed, and making it clear what the EU’s stance on the issue at hand is. If there’s a civil war in Saudi Arabia, would the EU be aiding the government, the rebels, or neither? You need to be in constant communication with other European diplomats across the Middle East as well as heads of state and your boss, Mr. Borrell. It is also worth noting that you might not always get along with those that you might consider to be your personal allies. The EU was widely scrutinized for attending the “launch” of the US-brokered Israel-Palestine peace plan, and many articles mentioned you by name, with one even calling you “a little-known diplomat [...] exist[ing] outside the EU foreign service's normal hierarchy.” At times, you may feel abandoned by your own people if your country fails to support a particular EU platform.

Important Quotes

1. “The EU is fully committed to the security of Israel, and will always support its right to exist. Mutual recognition is an important factor in building trust, hope and sustainable peace. Years of hatred and intolerance can be reversed through education and an understanding and appreciation of the other’s perspective and legitimacy. The EU does not ‘take sides’ in the conflict, and we remain ready to support both sides to return to a genuine process towards a negotiated two-state solution. This is important for Israel’s future, as well as for the Palestinians.”

2. “We are aware that Israel also occasionally removes illegal settlement outposts. However, this does not balance the systematic demolitions and lack of provision for Palestinian humanitarian and development needs in the same areas. Just in 2019, over 300 Palestinian structures were demolished or seized, and hundreds of people (including children) were displaced. Settlements are illegal under international law regardless of their status under Israeli law. Suggestions that Israel can unilaterally annex any part of this area without also threatening its international standing and abandoning hope for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are mistaken.

3. “The Dutch government made efforts to convince US to live up to its commitments under the JCPOA” [dealing with the Iran Nuclear Deal, from which Trump withdrew the US]

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