Sunday

17th Feb 2019

EU states promote settler boycott amid Israel crisis

  • Settler graffiti on Palestinian doorway in Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

Twelve EU countries have warned investors not to do business with Israeli settler entities, amid a security crisis in Israel and Palestine.

The group includes: Austria; Belgium; Croatia; Denmark; Finland; Greece; Ireland; Luxembourg; Malta; Portugal; Slovakia; and Slovenia.

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Portugal published its statement on Wednesday (2 July) and the others came out on Thursday. France, Italy, and Spain put out similar communiques earlier this week. Germany and the UK already did it months ago. Poland is expected to publish a warning shortly.

The Irish foreign ministry said the action “has been co-ordinated at EU level”.

The 12 warnings make similar points, with the Irish one, for instance, saying that “economic activities (including in services like tourism) in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements, entail legal and economic risks”.

It said investors could face lawsuits over “disputed titles to the land, water, mineral, or other natural resources”. It added that: “In case of disputes, it could be very difficult for [EU] member states to ensure national protection of their interests”.

The communique noted that Ireland does not endorse “any form of boycott directed against Israel”.

But it also said Irish businesses should beware of the “reputational implications” of indirect support for “possible abuses of the rights of individuals”.

The warnings come after the EU last year blocked grants for Israeli projects on the other side of the Green Line - Israel's old border with Palestine.

EU diplomats have also threatened to publish a code for retail labels on Israeli settler exports if Israel does not stop building more houses on Palestinian land.

The new wave of business warnings come amid a security crisis caused by the murder of three Jewish teenagers in the West bank and the murder of a Palestinian boy in Jerusalem.

They also come amid an escalating exchange of fire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including Hamas.

Israel blames Hamas for the three murders and arrested more than 400 of its members in the West Bank in a crackdown which also saw Israeli soldiers shoot dead five Palestinians.

It has long blamed the EU for what it says is taking the Palestinian side in the on-off peace talks, making it harder for the two parties to come to their own accord.

On Friday, it also criticised the timing of the business warnings.

A foreign ministry spokesman, Paul Hirschson, told EUobserver from Tel Aviv - a town in range of Hamas rockets - the EU “is renowned for bad timing. We’ve got a very delicate situation here and the last thing you should be doing is antagonising either side”.

He said some Israeli calls for revenge against Hamas are “ugly” but represent a “fringe” view.

“I don’t think we’re heading for a third intifada [Palestinian uprising] and we don’t want to enter Gaza [in a ground assault] if it can be avoided. But there’s a very sombre mood here. It’s a very tough time”.

He added: “We don’t want to get dragged back into a fully fledged conflict, but we’re not scared of it either - the balance of power is such that Israel is the strongest country in the region and we do not face an existential threat”.

The Palestinian Authority could not be reached for a comment on Friday.

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