Europe ‘losing patience’ over settlements, says envoy

Spain and Italy issue warnings against commercial ties with West Bank, while EU ambassador warns more will follow

EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)

The European Union’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, warned once again that European states are “losing patience” with the continued growth of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The comment came Friday, after Spain and Italy joined France, Germany and the UK in warning their citizens against engaging in commercial ties with West Bank settlements. France issued a similar declaration last week, while the foreign offices of Germany and Britain did so several months ago.

“These warnings don’t surprise us,” Faaborg-Andersen told journalists at a Geneva Initiative event on Friday. “The states [of the EU] are losing patience when it comes to continued construction in the settlements, and if the trend continues, more countries will join these warnings against businesses operating over the Green Line,” he warned.

According to a Friday report in the Italian La Stampa daily, Italy’s Foreign Minister Federico Mogherini cautioned Italians “not to get involved in financial activity and investments” in settlements. The warning is given “in accord with other European countries” and reflects Italy’s implementation of “a political decision taken earlier,” Mogherini said, according to the paper.

The Italian statement, issued on behalf of the EU, the presidency of which it takes over next week, said financial transactions, investments, purchases, contracts and tourism in Israeli settlements only benefit the settlements.

It said companies who do so should consider possible human rights violations and “the potential negative implications of such activities on their reputation or image.”

The Spanish Foreign Ministry, which placed the warning on its website Thursday, cites European Union policy which deems illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan. These settlements “constitute an obstacle to peace” and the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the statement said.

“The potential buyers and investors should know that a future peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, or between Israel and Syria could have consequences both for properties acquired and for economic activities promoted in said settlements,” the Spanish statement said. “In case of litigation, it could be very difficult for member states to guarantee the protection of their interests.”

The international community regards most Israeli building over the Green Line as contrary to international law, though most rounds of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians centered on negotiating a new, agree-upon boundary that would keep most Israeli settlers within Israel, as most settlers live adjacent to the Green Line that divides Israel and the West Bank.

Israel has annexed East Jerusalem, the part of the city over the Green Line that includes the Western Wall and Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, but the move has not been recognized internationally.

The warnings call the settlements “obstacles to peace” which “threaten to make the two-state solution impossible.”

An Israeli diplomatic official shrugged off the warnings Friday, calling them “a political statement disguised as a legal one, and as such one that merely reiterates old and well-known European positions,” according to the Hebrew-language NRG news site.

The “vague wording of the statements points to the weak legal foundations of the warning,” the official said.

AFP and AP contributed to this report.

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