Report highlights EU trade with Israeli settlers
31.10.12 @ 09:26
BRUSSELS - A coalition of 22 NGOs fronted by a former EU commissioner has highlighted the scope of European trade with illegal Israeli settlements.
Its report, out on Tuesday (30 October), cited World Bank figures that EU consumers buy €230 million a year worth of products from 500,000 settlers compared to imports of less than €15 million from the 4 million Palestinians in the region.
"By importing vastly more from settlements that are taking advantage of the occupation than from producers living under the occupation, Europe is helping entrench the discriminatory two-tier system in the West Bank," it said.
The main settler imports are dates, grapes, peppers, fresh herbs, cut flowers, avocados, citrus fruits, tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers, potatoes, herbal tea and wine from Israeli firms such as Mehadrin, Arava Export Growers, Hadiklaim, Achdut and Adanim Tea.
Zooming in, it said Israel last year exported 12,000 tonnes of dates from the West Bank, compared to 300 tonnes sold abroad by Palestinian farmers.
In terms of manufactured goods made on Palestinian land, Israeli soft drinks firm SodaStream sells 68 percent of its output in the EU.
Keter Plastic (a maker of plastic furniture), Ahava (cosmetics), Barkan Mounts (television mounts), Ofertex (textiles), Supergum (car plastics), Tip Top Toys Star, Twitoplast (plastic accessories) and Yardeni Locks (locking mechanisms) also export to the Union.
At the same time, EU investors such as G4S (security), Alstom (railways), Veolia (transport and waste) and Heidelberg Cement are pouring money into settler bank accounts.
For his part, Hans Van den Broek - a former external relations commissioner and Dutch foreign minister, who wrote a preamble to the paper - backed 12 proposals for the EU to align its trade and foreign policy.
Apart from a code of conduct for EU consumer labels on settler goods (a work in progress in the EU institutions), the report said the bloc should ban settler imports, ban EU financial transactions with settler bodies and "discourage" EU real estate purchases and tourist trips to settler territories.
"As settlement construction has continued and accelerated ... we Europeans have failed to move from words to action," the study said.
The EU delegation to Israel gave weight to the study.
"The report represents an important contribution to the ongoing debate on this and other issues related to the Middle East peace process," it said in a statement for Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
But the spokesman of the Israeli mission to the EU, Yoel Mester, said it is another attempt to skew the picture.
"It puts an exaggerated focus on the issue of settlements while pushing aside the other issues that are just as important and make up the conflict ... it plyas into the hands of Palestinians by embracing their narrative and doesnot help to bring them back to the negotiating table, where everything, inlcuding settlements, can be discussed," he told EUobserver.