25th Mar 2018

Mogherini makes light of leaked EU paper on Israel sanctions

  • Israeli soldier in occupied West Bank (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

Europe’s new foreign relations chief has denied the EU is in talks on Israel sanctions, despite a leaked paper on the issue.

Federica Mogherini, who chaired her first foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Monday (17 November), told press the leaked paper is a “technical working hypothesis” which “member states requested” when her predecessor was in office.

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She added: “It is not at the heart of today’s discussions on how to start a positive process with the Israelis and Palestinians. There’s currently no question of sanctioning anybody. The question is rather how to motivate people to … restart peace talks”.

Mogherini spoke shortly after Israeli daily Haaretz published a two-page internal EU text entitled: “Non-paper based on MS inputs on possible follow-up on East Jerusalem”.

The preamble says MS (member states) tasked EU diplomats on 11 September with drawing up the options.

The paper lists some possible “incentives” to stop Israel building settlements that will make a two-state solution impossible.

But it is heavier on the sanctions side.

The possible punitive measures include: “recalling ambassadors”; “systematic inclusion of territorial clause in all … agreements” to make sure they do not apply to Israeli activity over the Green Line; “reassessing distribution of [EU] funds”; and “strengthen[ing] advice to EU citizens … public communication on settlements and settlement economic activities”.

It also contains a second section classified at the higher level of “Restricted”.

The more sensitive section speaks of: “actions vis-a-vis EU companies operating in settlements” and “actions vis-a-vis settlers (no contact policy with settler organisations/refuse to engage with settlers including public figures and those publicly rejecting the two-state solution/assess possible EU entry policy for violent settlers”.

On the Palestinian side, it adds that the EU could take “actions reinforcing the Palestinian statehood” on “protocol issues” and “support, or non-opposition, to applications to international organisations; recognition”.

It also warns the EU could “reassess” funds for Palestine which help to “perpetuate the status quo of occupation”.

Despite Mogherini’s dismissal, EU states have already taken some of the actions in the paper.

The EU recently blocked grants and loans for Israeli entities which operate on Palestinian land and is drafting a code on retail labels for settler exports.

The Dutch government has put pressure on Dutch firms to abandon investments in occupied territories.

The Swedish government recently recognised Palestinian statehood. The British and Irish parliaments urged their governments to do the same in non-binding resolutions, while Spanish MPs will hold a vote at 4pm local time on a similar motion on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, if the EU makes good on its idea of isolating Israeli politicians who reject a Palestinian state, it could mean refusals to meet with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, economy minister Naftali Bennett, housing minister Uri Ariel, and several MPs in the ruling Likud party.

Mogherini’s dismissal also came amid strong language in the EU ministers’ formal conclusions on Monday.

The joint text said the “EU deeply deplores and strongly opposes” recent settlement expansions in and around East Jerusalem which “run counter to international law and directly threaten the two-state solution”.

It also urged Israeli politicians to stop making statements about building a new Jewish temple at Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount - a holy site for Jews and Muslims - due to the idea’s “deeply destabilising effects”.

Echoing the leaked sanctions paper, it said the EU “remains ready to take further action in order to protect the viability of the two-state solution”.

Mogherini, who recently visited Israel and Palestine, noted the EU cannot afford to take “a wait-and-see” approach on the Arab-Israeli conflict because the two-state solution is slipping away.

She said the EU foreign service has no mandate to co-ordinate Palestine recognition by EU states.

But she added: “We did talk about the need to have exchange of information on steps taken by national parliaments so we can at least prepare reactions”.

“There’s no common approach to this. But we could at least agree to share the main lines of thinking on these matters”.

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