In what one Israeli official called an "earthquake," the Guardian reports that
The European Union has dealt a harsh blow to the Israeli settlement enterprise in a directive that insists all future agreements between the EU and Israel must explicitly exclude Jewish colonies in the West Bank or East Jerusalem...The directive took effect last Friday and applies to the 2014-20 financial framework. Full text is here (pdf).
..In order to secure agreements with the EU in the future, the Israeli government will be required to concede in writing that settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are outside the state of Israel.
It's sad that it's come to this. It amounts to a sanction on the government of Israel, in order to reaffirm what the whole world (including the United States) knows: The West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are not part of Israel.
The guidelines in the directive are now, for the first time, explicit and in writing. However, they are not sweeping, nor do they change what has always been the EU's position regarding Israel's borders.
They merely stipulate that institutions based in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem are not eligible to receive grants, prizes or other financial instruments funded by the common European Union budget as of Jan. 1, 2014. The document published on Friday clearly states that "the EU does not recognize Israel's sovereignty over any of the (occupied) territories."The directive will not affect private sector trade (such as produce grown in illegal settlements).
So what's been the reaction? Some predictable, some not.
the European guidelines have made it clear to Israel that its days of violating international law with impunity are over.Binyamin Netanyahu
As prime minister of Israel, I will not allow the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who live in the West Bank, Golan Heights and our united capital Jerusalem to be harmed. We will not accept any external diktats about our borders. This matter will only be settled in direct negotiations between the parties.Other Israeli Leaders:
an Israeli official who spoke to Haaretz called it an “earthquake” and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin not surprisingly condemned the move as “a big mistake” that encourages Palestinians to avoid negotiations. According to The Jerusalem Post Housing Minister Uri Ariel called the move racist.Germany
Germany seemed to back away from the announcement on Friday:
German Foreign Ministry may have been listening. Speaking with mass-circulation daily Bild, a spokeswoman from the ministry said that the European Commission "developed the guidelines on their own prerogative."Palestinian Official Hanan Ashrawi
That, of course, is only partially true. EU foreign ministers approved the guidelines unanimously.
"The EU has moved from the level of statements, declarations and denunciations to effective policy decisions and concrete steps which constitute a qualitative shift that will have a positive impact on the chances of peace," said Ms Ashrawi.So far, the United States has not made any formal statements about this development.
"The Israeli occupation must be held to account, and Israel must comply with international and humanitarian law and the requirements for justice and peace."
What Does it Mean?
In my opinion, the fact that there are no official statements coming out of Washington is quite telling. This may be the stick that helped bring the Israeli government to the negotiating table, since the Palestinians have nearly zero leverage over Israel. Then again, it also may have been the carrot that brought the Palestinians to the table. The EU directive was adopted on June 30th, it went into effect on Friday, July 19th, and John Kerry announced that the parties agreed to talks also on Friday, July 19th.
According to Barak Ravid however, a U.S. official warned that should Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts at restarting negotiations fail, it is likely the EU will take even more measures against Israeli settlements. In this sense, the anonymous U.S. official was implying that Israel would be blamed for the deadlock in peace talks as a result of its continued settlement project.On the other hand, it may mean that sanctions against the Israeli occupation and settlement project have begun in earnest. Stay tuned.
RESOURCES FOR LEARNING MORE ABOUT BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions):
- Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)
- Jewish Voice for Peace - The BDS focus at JVP is on the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza only
- American Friends Service Committee Investment Screen - A list of companies screened out for investment because of involvement in the Israeli occupation. Developed by a Quaker organization.
- Who Profits - a website dedicated to exposing companies that profit from the Israeli occupation