European Union foreign ministers adopted a position on January 18 that all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU “must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967’’.
“The EU and its member states are committed to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral agreements applicable on settlement products,’’ the Foreign Affairs conclusions said, in a reference to guidelines issued in November on labelling Israeli products manufactured in the West Bank and the Golan Heights and exported to the EU market.
The EU ministers said that “this does not constitute a boycott of Israel which the EU strongly opposes’’.
The adoption of the conclusions – described as a ”good text” by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini – came late on the afternoon of January 18 after reportedly several hours of discussion due to differences between foreign ministers over the harsh wording of the initial proposed text which some countries found to be overly critical of Israel, the European Jewish Press reported.
Ahead of Monday’s EU meeting, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with several top foreign ministry officials spoke with leaders from several European countries, including those of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary and the Czech Republic, in an effort to block the adoption of the text.
Netanyahu ordered that EU foreign ministers and Mogherini be sent material on Palestinian incitement to violence.
Despite Netanyahu’s lobbying, the vote was held as planned, though his diplomatic push did succeed in prompting several countries to demand a softer version of the resolution.
“Our intense diplomatic work prevented wording applying to each member state,” said an Israeli official, quoted by the EJP.
In the conclusions, the EU also expressed deep concern that the continuing cycle of violence has led to a serious loss of human life in Israel and the Palestinian territory in recent months’’.
Without any specific reference to the current wave of daily attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, which has so far left 28 people dead, including a mother of six on Sunday, the EU condemned the terror attacks and violence ‘’from all sides and in any circumstances, including the death of children.’’
The EU urged all parties to refrain from any action that would worsen the situation by way of incitement or provocation’’ and called on the parties ‘’to condemn attacks when they occur and adhere strictly to the principles of necessity and proportionality in the use of force’’.
It called on both sides to jointly and resolutely fight incitement and hate speech, adding that “only the re-estabishment of a political horizon and the resumption or dialogue can stop the violence’’.
The EU said that “a fundamental change of policy by Israel with regard to the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in Area C, will significantly increase economic opportunities, empower Palestinian institutions and enhance stability and security for both Israelis and the Palestinians”.
“The EU will continue to closely monitor developments on the ground and their broader implications and will consider further action in order to protect the viability of the two-state solution, which is constantly eroded by new facts on the ground,’’ the text said.
The EU reiterated its “strong opposition’’ to Israel’s settlement policy and actions “such as building the separation barrier beyond the 1967 line, demolitions and confiscation – including of EU funded projects-, evictions, forced transfers including of Bedouins, illegal outposts and restrictions of movement and access’’. It urged Israel to end all settlement activity and to dismantle the outposts erected since March 2001.
The EU considers that securing a just and lasting peace will require an increased common international effort towards “a renewed multilateral approach to the peace process’’.
The text mentioned the possible establishment of an International Support Group and a further international conference as ways to contribute to this approach.
“The EU recalls its willingness to engage further with regional partners on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative which provides key elements for the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as the opportunity for building a regional security framework,’’ the text said.
Israel’s foreign ministry said in response to the EU foreign ministers’ statement continues to apply a double standard in relation to Israel, ignoring the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for the diplomatic stalemate and the incitement feeding the current wave of Palestinian terrorism.
Following diplomatic and political efforts by prime minister Netanyahu and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the European Union softened the language of its resolution, Israel’s foreign ministry said.
“However, the EU continues to apply a double standard in relation to Israel, ignoring the Palestinian Authority’s responsibility for the diplomatic stalemate and the incitement feeding the current wave of Palestinian terrorism.
“Out of 200 border conflicts in the world today, the EU has chosen to discriminate against Israel. This approach prevents the EU from being an honest broker in the conflict,” the Israeli foreign ministry said.
(Photo of Israel’s capital Jerusalem: Marketa Skornickova)