EU to bar all member states from funding Israeli settlements
An EU directive will bar all 28 member states from dealings with Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, including annexed Arab east Jerusalem, sparking attacks from Israeli officials Tuesday.
The directive, due to be published on Friday and take effect from 2014, forbids EU member states from funding or dealing with Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, according to Israeli media.
It requires a clear distinction to be made in all signed agreements between Israel and the territories it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war — the Golan Heights as well as the West Bank, including east Jerusalem.
A high-ranking official, who requested anonymity, described the European Union’s move as a disproportionate “attack” on Israel.
“When it comes to disputed territories, the Europeans prefer to attack a small country like Israel instead of taking on more powerful states, because they’re afraid of retaliation,” he said.
Israel was “only informed of the directive at the last moment,” he added.
EU spokesman David Kriss told AFP: “These are guidelines on the eligibility of Israeli entities and their activity in the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967 for grants, prizes and financial instruments funded by the EU from 2014 onwards.
“It makes a distinction between Israel and the entities in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights,” he said.
In its Jerusalem Report 2012, the European Union said Jewish settlement construction posed “the biggest single threat to the two-state solution.”
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin told army radio the Europeans had made a “mistake” and that the directive would undermine any return to peace talks with the Palestinians.
“It’s a very worrying initiative launched at a bad time, because it only reinforces the Palestinians’ refusal to restart negotiations,” he said.
Danny Dayan, a spokesman for the Yesha Settler Council, which represents Israelis living in the West Bank, strongly criticized the move.
“The one-sided and discriminatory EU directive means Europe has effectively decided to abandon any involvement it had in the Middle East peace process,” he said in a statement.
“By aligning itself with the most extreme Palestinian demands… the EU can no longer be perceived as a neutral or objective,” he added.
But, the EU’s executive on Tuesday denied any change in policy towards Israel after the adoption of guidelines confirming that the occupied territories will be excluded from cooperation agreements with the bloc.
“It’s not a new approach,” said Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
The guidelines adopted June 30 limit “the application of agreements with Israel to the territory of Israel as recognized by the EU,” which means prior to the June 1967 occupation by Israel of the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
They “are applicable to all grants, prizes, and financial instruments funded by the European Union from 2014 onwards,” Kocijancic said. “We are talking about EU programs from the EU budget.”
Palestinian leaders say they will only resume direct negotiations with Israel if they are held on the basis of the lines that existed before 1967, and if Israel freezes all settlement activity in territories.
Israel insists they be held “without preconditions.”
Almost 520,456 settlers live in the West Bank in around 121 settlements, B’tselem an Israeli Human Rights Information Center, says.
Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem are considered illegal under international law, but Israeli’s current government – which includes far-right radicals – has insisted on expanding the settlements to the detriment of the Palestinian population.
Earlier this year, anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now found that Israeli settlement activity is at its highest in ten years.
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