EU ‘sidelining’ diplomats’ advice to press Israel on settlements — report

Despite repeated European rejection of West Bank construction as illegal, recommendations to penalize Israel are dismissed, according to Guardian

Illustrative: Two Palestinian cars near the Israeli settlement of Efrat in the West Bank on November 24, 2009. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: Two Palestinian cars near the Israeli settlement of Efrat in the West Bank on November 24, 2009. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The European Union has been “sidelining” calls from its top diplomats in Israel to step up pressure on Jerusalem to abandon the settlement enterprise, according to a report Tuesday.

According to the London-based Guardian newspaper, the EU has disregarded requests to increase moves to “halt trade” with the settlements, despite Brussels’s repeated claims that they are illegal and threaten the two-state solution.

Late last year, a group of European diplomats, known as the Heads of Missions in Israel, filed a report with the EU warning of growing “despair… anger and a loss of hope in the future” among Palestinians, in light of the ongoing construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as the fear among Palestinians that Israel intends to alter the status quo on the Temple Mount, a claim that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly denied.

The Guardian claimed to have obtained a copy of the EU diplomat’s secret report, which calls for a number of actions to be taken by the European body to prevent a further deterioration of the possibility of a two-state solution, including additional measures to not recognize settlements as officially part of Israel.

These steps were also said to include: Ensuring the “full and effective implementation” of the European commission’s 2015 requirement to label products coming out of Israeli settlements; examining the “development of further EU guidelines on differentiating between Israel and Israeli settlements in other relevant fields;” adopting a “comprehensive communications strategy” to ensure a better understanding of the EU’s policies on settlement, including the European body’s opposition to boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts against the Jewish state itself; and educating European businesses about the dangers of conducting “financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurements and services” with Israeli settlements.

Though the Heads of Missions in Israel made those recommendations more than seven months ago, they have not been implemented by the European Union, the Guardian reported.

Earlier this month the European Union joined Washington and the United Nations in condemning recently announced Israeli plans for new building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, saying the move “threatens the viability of the two-state solution.”

In a statement, the EU’s External Action Service said the move “calls into question Israel’s commitment to a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians.”

The assessments made by EU diplomats differ slightly from recommendations made by the Middle East diplomatic Quartet earlier this month, which put blame on Israel for settlement construction, but also accused the Palestinian Authority of inciting its people to violence.

“Israel should cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, designating land for exclusive Israeli use, and denying Palestinian development,” said the Quartet report.

Such actions were “steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution,” said the report, which is intended to serve as the basis for reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that has been comatose since a US initiative collapsed in April 2014.

“This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by the statements of some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state,” it added.

The report also addressed the wave of Palestinian violence, resulting since October in the deaths of at least 214 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese. Israel says more than two-thirds of the Palestinians killed died in the act of attacking Israelis.

“The Palestinian Authority should act decisively and take all steps within its capacity to cease incitement to violence and strengthen ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including by clearly condemning all acts of terrorism,” the Quartet said.

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