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EU official: No new sanctions against Israel

However, regulations demanding identification of settlements products before market to Europe may be enforced

Flags outside the European Union in Brussels (photo credit: Flickr/BY 2.0/motiqua )
Flags outside the European Union in Brussels (photo credit: Flickr/BY 2.0/motiqua )

The European Union and its member states do not envision passing any new sanctions against Israel, an EU official said in refuting reports to the contrary.

The official spoke to JTA Wednesday under condition of anonymity about a report that appeared the previous day on the Israeli news website Walla.

The report quoted unnamed Israeli officials as saying that they heard from European diplomats, who also were not named, that the European Union or member states are discussing “applying sanctions against companies that will do business across the border,” in reference to the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank.

One Israeli official said: “The assumption in Europe is that Israel will have a right-wing government after the elections and in that situation it would be easier for them to promote such moves.”

But the EU official said there currently is no intention of passing new sanctions or regulations against Israel, which is officially not subject to any EU sanctions, though EU steps designed to prevent member states’ involvement in the settlements are often perceived as punitive in Israel.

“The report is absolutely wrong about the incoming government and the elections, or that after the elections there will be all sorts of moves,” the official said. “I think that this is not being discussed at all among member states.”

However, member states are discussing applying existing regulations which Israel opposes, such as labeling settlement goods, the EU official said, referencing a 2012 statement by 27 EU foreign ministers who vowed to “fully and effectively implement existing EU legislation and agreements with Israel regarding products from the settlements.”

Israeli firms based in the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and the West Bank mark their produce as “Made in Israel” though the European Union, like all other international institutions, does not recognize those areas as being part of Israel and have therefore pushed for separate labeling. Last year, several European foreign ministries advised businesses from their countries against activity in territory regarded by the European Union as occupied, citing potential legal complications.

However, EU regulations on settlements have been only partially implemented, “because everyone hoped peace was around the corner,” the EU official said. Now that the renewal of talks between Israel and the Palestinians seems unlikely, “member states are insisting on applying the rules that we have,” the official added. These discussions, the official added, are ongoing.

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