Despite Israeli pleas, EU to press ahead with restrictions

Brussels said to be willing to negotiate implementation of limits on funding, cooperation of West Bank, East Jerusalem projects

View of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin (photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
View of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin (photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Despite the Israeli government’s efforts at forestalling the move, the European Union will formally publish its “settlement guidelines” directive on Friday to defund and cease cooperation with Israeli projects in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights, EU officials told Army Radio on Thursday.

The sources noted, however, that the EU is prepared to engage in negotiations with Israel to amend the implementation of the restrictions, which are scheduled to take effect in January 2014.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had spent the last several days holding marathon talks with European diplomats and leaders to coax them into delaying publication of the bill, reportedly telling them that the timing could harm the chances for restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.

The EU’s new directive, made public Tuesday, calls for the body to cease any joint activity or funding with Israeli entities working over the Green Line or in the Golan Heights.

The measure will also force future agreements between Israel and the EU to include a clause in which Israel accepts the European Union’s position that all territory over the Green Line does not belong to Israel.

The restrictions are ostensibly meant to help Israel, by ensuring that it remains a recipient of EU funds, provided that the money doesn’t cross the Green Line, the EU has said. But officials in Jerusalem have said the measures will also serve to alienate Israel, and predetermine its future borders.

Sandra de Waele, the deputy EU ambassador to Israel, said Tuesday that the measure was designed to ensure that EU financial support “not benefit [Israeli] entities” beyond the Green Line, because it was the EU’s position that such entities were illegal. She said there had been concern that these entities had indeed been benefiting from EU funds. She stressed that the directive would not affect private businesses.

A Jerusalem official told Maariv in response to the restrictions’ publication that “the Europeans have a right to do whatever they like with their money. However, their directives also influence what Israeli institutions do with funds that do not come from the EU, and that is unacceptable.”

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