For Palestinian politicians, new EU directive is good news

Fatah officials hopeful that settlement boycott will push Israel back to the negotiating table; Hamas hopes it won’t

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A new EU directive barring all dealings with Israeli entities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem was received with satisfaction by Palestinian politicians, with some officials hoping the move will help kick-start the stalled peace process while others called for further punitive measures against Israeli settlers.

“This is a great move,” wrote PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi in a press statement published Wednesday by PA daily Al-Ayyam. “The European Union has moved from the stage of statements and condemnations to the stage of effective political decisions and tangible steps which will have a positive effect on the prospects for peace.”

Fatah official Nabil Amr said that the EU decision coincides with the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry to return to the negotiating table and “begin the most difficult of battles to remove the settlements from our land.”

“The EU decisions regarding the settlements are the most powerful and most important [decisions] in our long and complicated battle against Israeli settlement on our Palestinian land,” Amr told Ma’an news agency.

The directive, sent out on June 30 and set to take effect on Friday, extends to “all funding, cooperation, and the granting of scholarships, research grants and prizes” to Israeli entities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

It also requires that any contracts between EU member countries and Israel henceforth include a clause stating that East Jerusalem and the West Bank are not part of the State of Israel.

Some Palestinian officials said they regarded the European directive as an opportunity to impose harsher sanctions on Israelis living beyond the Green Line.

Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Ishtayya called for “additional steps by the EU to pressure Israel to complete the peace process,” such as a European ban on settlement products and the revocation of European citizenship from Israelis “insisting on remaining in the settlements.”

Hamas too issued a statement on Wednesday congratulating the EU for its decision, but took the opportunity to slam Fatah for its continued reliance on a negotiated solution with Israel.

“This is a move in the right direction, pressuring the occupation and deterring it from its settlement expansion and its perpetual crimes against the Palestinian land,” read the statement posted on Hamas’s official website.

“While we welcome any international position asserting the illegality of settlements and the need to stop them immediately, we call on our brothers in the Fatah movement to stop relying on futile negotiations which only give the occupation cover to continue its settlement and Judaizing projects.”

Hamas called on Europe to “boycott Zionist products” and on the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take “brave steps against the Zionist settlement.”

Gavriel Fiske contributed to this report.

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