France warns citizens against doing business in settlements

France warns citizens against doing business in settlements

Foreign ministry declares economic activity in the territories a ‘legal risk’; Israel: Warning indicates ‘deep confusion’

A view of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, in the southern West Bank, adjoining the city of Hebron. (Michal Fattal/Flash90)
A view of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, in the southern West Bank, adjoining the city of Hebron. (Michal Fattal/Flash90)

The French government released a public message to its citizens Tuesday warning against conducting business or investing in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights.

The French Foreign Ministry wrote in the statement that under international law the settlements are illegal, and therefore doing business with them is taking a legal risk, according to a report in Haaretz.

A French diplomat noted to the daily that the announcement is part of a coordinated effort by the European Union’s five largest countries — Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain — to curb economic cooperation with Israeli settlements.

Britain and Germany issued similar warnings several months ago.

Italy and Spain are expected to publish similar messages in the coming days, in the wake of failed Israeli-Palestinians negotiations and new settlement construction tenders.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Times of Israel that the warning was nothing new.

“This is a well known EU position on this particular issue. Here we can see again the deep confusion of the EU policy on this as they appear to be warning their citizens of legal consequences without hinting at the slightest relevant legal reference,” he said.

The warning was posted on the website of the French Foreign Ministry as part of broader recommendations for those traveling to Israel. “Due to the fact that the settlements are illegal under international law, conducting economic activity in the settlements, such as financial transfers, investments, acquisition of assets, provision of supplies or performing other economic activities by which the settlements benefit is taking a legal risk,” the warning read in French.

The statement further said that the settlements are built on occupied territory and that the international community does not recognize them as part of Israel.

“This will likely lead to land disputes or to disagreements over water, minerals or other natural resources,” the statement said. “and this risks the reputation of those carrying out economic activity… We call on citizens and business people considering engaging in economic activity in the settlements to seek out legal advice before making a decision.”

The French notification and the coordination between the EU’s five biggest members comes against the backdrop of discussions that have taken place in various EU institutions over the last few weeks in Brussels regarding a general warning from the European Commission to all EU businesses that carry out economic activities in the settlements.

In anticipation of the move, Israel’s Foreign Ministry instructed Israeli embassies across the EU last week to contact the local foreign ministries and request they not publish the warnings, according to Haaretz.

An Israeli diplomat told the paper that the ambassadors were instructed to say that at present, especially in light of the abduction of the three teens from Gush Etzion, publishing such a warning could further increase tensions between Israel and Europe and cause real damage to the relationship. The French did not respond to this request.

With the French publication, Jerusalem fears a landslide of similar warnings from other EU countries could ensue.

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