The European Union’s outgoing envoy to the Palestinian territories says the 28-nation bloc is moving forward with measures against Jewish West Bank settlements.
The envoy, John Gatt-Rutter, did not provide a time frame. But his remarks to reporters Thursday underline European discontent with Israel’s continued expansion of settlements in territory that Palestinians want for a future state.
“There is support within the union to go on,” Gatt-Rutter said, adding that there are “more tools” the EU can use.
The EU, Israel’s biggest trading partner, is exploring guidelines that would require Israel to label settlement products. It already bars goods produced in settlements from receiving customs exemptions given to Israeli goods.
Gatt-Rutter’s remarks come as a grassroots movement promoting boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel is gaining steam and as the Palestinian Authority urged the EU to block the entry of Israelis living beyond the Green Line into Europe’s 26 Schengen Area countries.
In an extensive interview with London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat earlier this week, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki expressed annoyance at the fact that a European Union decision to label settlement products has not yet been implemented.
“If the EU argues that settlement products should be ‘discriminated against,’ settlers are among those products and should be viewed the same way,” Maliki told the daily. The PA has also called on the EU and US to place settlers that carry out so-called “price tag” attacks against Palestinian property on their terror blacklist.
The European Union was looking into the possibility of blacklisting “violent settlers” late last year, diplomats told Reuters. That sanction would affect up to 200 individuals, they estimated.
Schengen Area countries, comprising most of Western Europe, have abolished passports and other forms of border control at their common borders.