The European Union is looking at banning Jewish settlers who have been convicted of violent crimes from visiting EU countries as a way of pressuring Israel over its settlement policies, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
According to diplomats, the idea is still being formulated but could affect some 100-200 settlers, although the step would be complicated since many have European passports.
“The paperwork has been done but it is frozen for now,” an unnamed official said. “It is basically a blacklist of violent settlers who have been accused of or convicted of crimes. It would prevent them from traveling to Europe.”
The move comes after increasing European and US irritation over Israel’s continued building of homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Most countries consider the construction to be illegal and a block to reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Tensions have become further strained after recent reports of a large housing project in the Givat Hamatos area of the capital, which lies beyond Israel’s pre-1967 lines, and the appropriation of 1,000 acres of land in the Gush Etzion bloc in the southern West Bank.
In the furor over the Givat Hamatos plan, which was publicized during a meeting between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington at the end of last month, the US issued a harsh criticism of Israeli policy.
However, European diplomats stressed that there is no talk of applying sanctions on Israel.
“No one is talking about imposing trade sanctions on Israel,” said one EU country’s ambassador to Israel. “But there is a very high level of frustration and there are many instruments at our disposal to make that frustration clear.”
EU foreign ministers are scheduled to meet in Luxembourg on October 20, although it is not known if Israel or West Bank settlements will be on the agenda.
An Israeli official, who asked not be named, told Reuters that Europe was misguided in its attitude.
“By focusing only on one issue and only on Israel, they are not doing the Palestinians a favor and they are definitely not playing as productive a role as they could do in peace talks,” he said. “Europe could be much more productive in its engagement if its messages to the Palestinians were that it’s time for them to fundamentally accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state.”
The EU has already laid down guidelines against funding for scientific and research institutes that are based in settlements, and is heading towards imposing compulsory labeling to identify products manufactured in settlements.