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Can the EU's settlement exclusion push the U.S. to follow suit?

Every agreement the European Union signs with Israel as of 2014 will explicitly exclude all territories beyond the Green Line. The U.S. also doesn’t recognize Israel’s settlements, begging the question of why it doesn’t also take such measures.

The European Union will only enter cooperative agreements with Israel if it explicitly excludes the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights, Haaretz‘s Barak Ravid reported Tuesday. This means all Israeli government institutions and groups across Israel’s pre-1967 borders (the Green Line) will be automatically disqualified from receiving grants, funding, prizes or scholarships from the EU. In other words, Israel will be forced to recognize in writing, upon entering agreements with the EU, that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are not part of the state.

According to the Guardian the EU guidelines:

…set out the territorial limitations under which the Commission will award EU support to Israeli entities … Concern has been expressed in Europe that Israeli entities in the occupied territories could benefit from EU support. The purpose of these guidelines is to make a distinction between the State of Israel and the occupied territories when it comes to EU support.

Prime Minister Netanyahu called a special discussion Tuesday evening with a few cabinet members and released a strong statement rejecting the move. “We will not accept any foreign dictates about our borders. This matter will only be determined through direct negotiations,” he said, adding that the EU should be more preoccupied with Syria and Iran.

But what borders exactly is he talking about? Israel’s borders are not clearly defined nor are they internationally recognized; neither in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which have been annexed, nor in the West Bank, which has not. If Netanyahu wants to make statements about Israel’s borders, he must openly define them – which means coming to terms with annexation (something many in his Likud party and others further right have openly called for) or face withdrawal, which is what the EU is now starting to force him to do.

Earlier Tuesday, 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. “This is a decision marked with racism and discrimination against the Jewish People that is reminiscent of boycotts against Jews from over 66 years ago.” Settler leaders have responded by calling on the government to annex Area C the West Bank, and the Yesha Council (the settler political organization) has called on the state to ban all EU projects for Palestinians in Israel-controlled Area C. Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On insisted the move was not a boycott but rather a positive step that determines Israel’s borders, something the government has failed to do.

+972 asked the U.S. Embassy spokesperson in Tel Aviv for its reaction to the move, but said it had no comment. 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.

The move made top headlines in Israeli media Tuesday – both in English and Hebrew – presented as a major rift to Israel-EU relations and to Israel’s economy specifically. But it should be noted that in effect, all the EU is doing is implementing a decision that reflects its longstanding policy, according to which the settlements are not part of Israel and that they are an obstacle to the two-state solution.

This has also been the U.S. stated policy for decades, so it seems only natural that it would follow suit – it will therefore be interesting to see if and how it responds. After all, if it supports the EU decision, the major question will be why the U.S. is not doing the same; and if the U.S. condemns it, the major question will be why it is condemning a move that reflects its own policy.

Update (10 p.m., July 16):
The article was updated to add Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement.

The day Europe got Israel’s attention
What’s in the new EU guidelines regarding activities beyond the Green Line?
EU diplomats to Brussels: Put your money where your mouth is
EU diplomats recommend sanctions against Israeli settlements 

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    1. aristeides

      Or will the US push Europe to abandon the settlement exclusion?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Philos

      I wouldn’t hold your breath Mairav. It’s a decision by the European Commission and can be overturned by the European Council, which is where the heads of state make collective decisions. I find it very, very hard to believe that Merkel, Rajoy or Cameron would back such a move. It’s practically inconceivable that this will go through. If anything they’ll announce “consultation” on the proposal and the proposal will be forgotten. The EU leaders will use it as a reminder of “What could happen” as they sign another trade agreement with Israel.

      Reply to Comment
      • sh

        It isn’t a decision by the European Commission, it’s guidelines the Commission drew up based on what EU Foreign Ministers agreed on last December. It’s already been circulated to all EU institutions. It might not be binding, but it has weight. Merkel, Rajoy and Cameron have their electorates to think of.

        Reply to Comment
    3. carl

      First time that I feel proud to be a “EU citizen”. Settlers and their disgusting supporters have to know that the world considers them accountable for their selective use of history, religion and international law.

      Reply to Comment
      • Eric

        Europe is the most depraved society to ever exist upon this earth. They are responsible for more wars, slaughter, genocide and general mayhem that the rest of the world put together.

        I’m so glad that you are proud!. Israel and her supporters don’t care one bit what you and your disgusting Europeans think of them. The idea that you presume to stand in judgement of anyone–especially Israel–is truly perverse.

        Reply to Comment
        • carl

          “The idea that you presume” to be the only ‘enlighted one’ that has the right to live a decent life and that you believe that continuing to exploit the natural resources and the lives of millions of human beings….this is the real true perversion. You are an immoral human being that supports an immoral cause.
          And btw, I am fully aware of the past historical crimes of many european countries: this does not change anything in respect to the disgusting cause that you support. Don’t shift the attention: start to deal with your immoral actions.

          Reply to Comment
          • Slim

            Carl, my friend there ought to be more people like you out there who can stand up against despicable, self deluded people who take advantage of other past situations ie the ‘holocaust’ and use it for their own deluded ideas especially against an imprisoned nation. Carl you’ve nailed it.

            Reply to Comment
    4. How far behind the EU will South Africa be until it follows suit – till the end of this week? How about the rest of the BRICS, Latin America, and Africa?

      What kind of enormous momentum will this impart to the BDS campaign, and to the movement to drag Israel to the ICC in Sept?

      What potential is there for starting to penetrate the AIPAC-controlled US mainstream media, with the shocking news that Israel has been found to be an Apartheid state?

      There are FINALLY points on the board

      Reply to Comment
    5. Gaudi

      It’s progress.
      Would be better if it is actually adopted.
      Would be even better if they just suspended economic relations with Israel and stopped the charade of pretending like Israel and the settlers are different entities.

      Reply to Comment
    6. rsgengland

      The timing of this “EU Directive” could not be more illuminating and instructive.
      It comes in the period where Jews mourn the destruction of both the “First and Second Temples”, the “Expulsion of Jews from Spain”, and the beginning of the “Clearance/Annihilation of the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto”, among other things.
      Europe seems to be up to its old tricks again.

      Reply to Comment