Netanyahu suspends EU peace role over settlement labeling

Prime minister confirms dialogue with bloc on peace talks is to be frozen pending ‘reassessment’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) arrives at the Knesset for the weekly cabinet meeting, November 29, 2015. (Emil Salman/Haaretz)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) arrives at the Knesset for the weekly cabinet meeting, November 29, 2015. (Emil Salman/Haaretz)

Israel said Sunday it is suspending discussion of its conflict with the Palestinians with EU officials, in response to the bloc’s decision to label goods imported from Jewish settlements.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “ordered suspension of diplomatic contacts with the institutions of the European Union and its representatives on this issue,” the Foreign Ministry said in a Hebrew-language statement. The suspension of ties on peace talks will remain in place “until the reassessment is completed,” it said.

The Foreign Ministry statement said contacts with individual European countries would continue, but not with the EU organizations on the subject.

On November 11, the Foreign Ministry announced it was suspending dialogue with the European Union regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The ministry indicated in a statement that Israel was withdrawing from several bilateral forums dealing with the Palestinian issue.

“We have suspended the subcommittee on diplomacy, the subcommittee on human rights and international organizations,” the ministry said at the time. “The remaining dialogues [with the EU] are continuing as planned. Clearly, we won’t damage Israeli interests.”

“It is very important to the Europeans to be involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to hold a dialogue with us on the subject, but in light of their behavior it was decided to suspend all conversations with them about the matter,” added Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.

The suspension was communicated to EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen, who had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry that day for a formal dressing-down over the decision to label settlement goods. The ministry’s political director, Alon Ushpiz, told Faaborg-Andersen that it was regrettable that the EU took the step at a time when Israel is facing a wave of Palestinian terror attacks. Israel’s envoy to the EU, David Walzer, also informed European officials in Brussels of the measures.

But Faaborg-Andersen insisted that the new guidelines were “a small technical addition to something that has existed for a very long time: the trade facilitation between products coming from Israel proper, within its 1967 lines, and products coming from beyond the Green Line.”

He said he wanted “to emphasize strongly that this is not a boycott.”

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