The Foreign Ministry on Wednesday rejected reports that it had first been informed last December of a forthcoming European Union directive that prohibits funding to Israeli entities in the West Bank, but failed to do anything about the new regulations, which are set to be published this week.
According to a reports in the Hebrew press, despite the fact that the Israeli Embassy to the EU in Brussels learned of the proposed regulations several months ago, the details were only received in Jerusalem on Sunday and laid before the government on Monday.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman told The Times of Israel that its Brussels office had only been given word of the initiative last week and called accusations that it had mishandled the directive “ridiculous.”
Government sources were apparently taken by surprise by the directive, which cuts off from official EU funding any Israeli institutions located beyond the 1967 lines on the West Bank, the Golan, or East Jerusalem. In a four-page document reportedly due to be released on Friday the European Commission details the full conditions under which further cooperation with Israeli entities shall continue. The EU makes clear that it “does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over any of the territories… and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory, irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law.”
Government sources were quoted as saying that although they knew of various initiatives at the EU to demand that products from the West Bank be clearly labeled, they were unaware of the fact that far more substantial limitations were in the offing.
The Foreign Ministry has been operating without an appointed minister since last December when then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) resigned his position in the wake of an indictment on breach of trust charges. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to reserve the position for Liberman to take up again should he be acquitted.
The European Union’s decision to stop all financial interaction with Israeli enterprises in the West Bank is an attempt to put pressure on Israel that the government can’t afford to ignore, warned Justice Minister Tzipi Livini (Hatnua) warned Wednesday.
“It’s a wake-up call,” Livini told Army Radio. “We can easily get to a point where we are isolated by Europe.”
Livni, who is charged with overseeing negotiations with the Palestinians, said the new directives from the EU show that things are not as well with Europe as many seem to believe.
“It’s a bad decision for Israel, and we need to learn the lessons,” she said. “The best way to preserve the interests of Israel is to engage in negotiations.”
Livni asserted that the decision was brought on by frustration over Israel’s apparently contradictory policies regarding negotiations and settlement construction.
“It’s very difficult for Israel to explain that we want two states for two peoples and at the same time to continue building settlements,” she said. Livini noted that no country in the world, including the United States, supported Israeli settlements over the 1967 lines, and that according to the Europeans, continued settlement represents “a colonialist point of view.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.