The EU has not and will not initiate a boycott against Israel, said European Parliament President Martin Schulz in a speech Tuesday, after receiving an honorary doctorate at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.
“There is no boycott. In the European Parliament there is for sure not a majority for a potential boycott,” he said.
Schulz added that individual countries that are not members of the EU, such as Norway, could decide to boycott Israeli goods.
He made similar comments to opposition head and Labor party leader Isaac Herzog, stressing that “Israel’s problem is with the [European] business sector,” reported Ynet.
In his comments at Hebrew U., Schulz said that Europe would not interfere in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and he strongly endorsed the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
On Monday, the EU leader met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and pledged his support for US-led peace efforts. Abbas highlighted the importance of Europe’s role in supporting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and praised European support, in positions and statements, of the Palestinian people, according the official Palestinian News Agency.
Schulz is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday.
The threat of a potential economic boycott against Israel for its pro-settlement actions and policies in the West Bank has become a hot topic in Jerusalem recently, with Netanyahu convening three of his top ministers Sunday to discuss the issue. That meeting came less than a fortnight after Kerry warned that Israel was facing a growing campaign of delegitimization which could worsen if ongoing peace talks with the Palestinians collapse.
A growing number of governments and international businesses have said they will not trade with Israeli firms with ties to Jewish settlements, highlighting the creeping success of the Palestinian-led boycott campaign.
The so-called BDS movement — boycott, divestment and sanctions — works to convince governments, businesses and celebrities to cut ties with Israeli companies active in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The boycott has been given added impetus by a European Union decision to block grants and funding for any Israeli entity operating beyond pre-1967 lines.
A Foreign Ministry official told AFP on Monday there was a crucial difference between the BDS movement and “European states and institutions that have problems with Israel’s actions” in the West Bank.
The BDS was a “fringe group” that effectively “seeks to bring an end to Israel” by calling for the right of return for all Palestinian refugees to Israel, the official said.
Moves by European firms to disengage from Israeli companies with West Bank activities “could not be considered a boycott of Israel” since they continue to invest in the Jewish state, “only choosing in which firms.”
AFP contributed to this report.