Israel said scrambling to counter new EU decision on settlements
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Israel said scrambling to counter new EU decision on settlements

Haaretz says move, set to be approved on Monday, could lead to new sanctions on Jews in West Bank and Golan Heights

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a joint press conference with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, in Jerusalem, on November 7, 2014. (Photo credit: Amit Shabi/POOL/FLASH90)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a joint press conference with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, in Jerusalem, on November 7, 2014. (Photo credit: Amit Shabi/POOL/FLASH90)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has this weekend begun an emergency effort to halt plans by European Union member states to intensify their distinction between Israel and the territories it captured in the 1967 Six Day War, the Haaretz daily reported Friday.

The paper quoted senior Israeli officials and European diplomats as saying that the decision could lead to new sanctions against the Jewish communities in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

The draft resolution is being promoted by Sweden and Ireland, as well as France in a more limited scope, Haaretz said. The paper quotes a senior official in Jerusalem who said Israeli diplomats across the EU and those attached to EU bodies in Brussels have been working in recent days to soften the language of the draft, with limited success.

The decision on the proposal is scheduled to be announced on Monday, Haaretz reported, following a monthly meeting of the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council. According to the report, the statement had been expected to be “relatively moderate,” but in the wake of discussions on the issue at the EU headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, senior Israeli officials said there had been a significant intensification of the censure of Israel in the draft proposal.

According to Haaretz, the draft stresses that the EU sees a clear distinction between Israel and the settlements.

Two Palestinian woman pack dates at a packing plant on November 11, 2015 in the Jordan Valley region of the West Bank. Under new EU labeling guidelines, if these dates are exported to the EU they will need to be labeled as 'products from the West Bank (Israeli settlement).' (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)
Two Palestinian woman pack dates at a packing plant on November 11, 2015 in the Jordan Valley region of the West Bank. Under new EU labeling guidelines, if these dates are exported to the EU they will need to be labeled as ‘products from the West Bank (Israeli settlement).’ (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

The draft reportedly says that, “The EU will continue to unequivocally and explicitly make the distinction between Israel and all territories occupied by Israel in 1967.” Furthermore, it states, agreements between Israel and the EU are applicable solely to Israel proper, and not its settlements.

The draft also says the EU “will consider further action to protect the viability of the two-state solution, which is constantly eroded by new facts on the ground.”

It further states that, “The EU and its member states are united in their commitment to ensure full implementation of existing EU legislation and agreements applicable to settlement products.”

The recent decision to label settlement products, the draft also reportedly says, is not seen as a boycott of Israel, to which the EU is opposed.

In November, the EU approved guidelines for its member states to label products made in West Bank settlements, drawing angry condemnation from Israel and accusations of anti-Semitism.

The move, which also applies to the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, underscores the EU’s unhappiness over Israel’s continued expansion of settlements on territory that Palestinians are seeking for a future state. According to the guidelines published, the labels will need to point out that the product is made in an Israeli settlement, and not just the geographical origin.

The EU claimed the move, which has been in the works for over a year, was independent of any political considerations, and meant only to clarify misleading labels claiming that goods from the territories originated in Israel.

However, Jerusalem said it saw the decision as akin to a boycott on the state. The Foreign Ministry warned the decision could affect ties and accused Brussels in a statement of applying a double standard to Israel “while ignoring 200 other territorial disputes around the world.”

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said Thursday that he opposed the decision to label settlement products, arguing that it would have a detrimental effect on Palestinians employed at Israeli factories in these areas.

Later Thursday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu castigated aspects of the EU’s stance on Israel, and called for a “reset” in Israel-EU relations.

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