Sunday

17th Oct 2021

Israeli diplomats soften EU policy on settlements

  • Israeli settlers in West Bank: growing by 16,000 a year (Photo: ISM-NC)

Forceful Israeli diplomacy led to changes in an EU statement on “unequivocally and explicitly” differentiating between Israel and the occupied West Bank.

The final version, agreed by foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday (18 January), focuses on the letter of EU-Israel accords.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“The EU expresses its commitment to ensure 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,” it says.

An earlier draft, circulated by the EU foreign service, amounted to a more far-reaching policy declaration.

“​The EU will continue to unequivocally and explicitly make the distinction between Israel and all territories occupied by Israel in 1967,” the draft said.

Israeli diplomats, according to reports in Israeli media, had targeted the Czech Republic, Cyprus, and Greece in the run-up to Monday to try to soften or delay the statement.

Greece vetoed the draft text on Friday, saying it was “unbalanced” against Israel.

EU sources said Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland, and Romania joined the Greek complaint. But the Czech Republic and Germany stayed silent, while the Netherlands, also known as a friend of Israel, supported the draft.

The Israeli concern is that the more forceful and wide-ranging the wording, the more likely the EU, or individual states, will be to take additional anti-settler steps in future by reference to the Council conclusions.

The EU, already last year, published a code for retailers on how to label settler exports.

EU diplomats based in Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital, have, in the past, suggested other measures, such as a visa ban on known violent settlers.

The final version of the EU conclusions also softens criticism of Israel's plan to crack down on foreign-funded NGOs.

The final text speaks of “the importance of unhindered work of civil society” in Israel and Palestine. The earlier version spoke of “attempts to stifle civil society.”

In an another concession to Israel, the final text heaps blame on Hamas for rocket attacks, while making little mention of reciprocal Israeli fire.

Further action?

But the final text, as in the original, still says EU countries “will consider further action in order to protect the viability of the two-state solution” from settlement expansion.

It still links Palestinian knife and car attacks on Israelis to the lack of a “political horizon” for peace talks.

It also urges Israel, whose security forces killed 155 Palestinians in the past four months, to adhere to “necessity and proportionality in the use of force,” despite Israel’s recent fury at Swedish criticism of the Palestinian death toll.

The EU foreign relations chief, Federica Mogherini, described the final text as “a good basis for our common position and our engagement with the Middle East Peace Process.”

The Irish foreign minister, Charles Flanagan, whose country had, reportedly, pushed for stronger criticism of Israel, said: “Ireland firmly believes in a two-state solution and that’s not compatible with continued expansion of settlements.”

He described life in Israeli-besieged Gaza, which he recently visited, as “horrific.”

Iran hopes

The ministers spent most of Monday discussing the situation in the wider Middle East and north Africa.

They voiced hope the unity government deal in Libya will be respected and said Iran’s implementation of the nuclear non-proliferation deal bodes well for the Syria conflict.

The EU is keen, as part of a UN-led process, to launch talks between the Syrian government, moderate opposition forces, and regional powers.

Mogherini said Iran’s nuclear compliance means one of the most important regional actors can now play a bigger role in the talks.

She also said she’s planning to visit Iran in spring to promote EU business and political ties.

Opinion

Old friends? Palestine, Cyprus, and Greece

Built on common experience and principles, Palestine’s friendship with Cyprus and Greece goes back a long way. Short-term economic gains should not be allowed to harm this.

Interview

Palestinians join exodus to EU, says PLO's Erekat

Palestinians are joining the Middle East exodus to Europe in greater numbers because of the Syria war and Israeli occupation, Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official told EUobserver.

News in Brief

  1. Poland legalises refugee pushbacks
  2. Report: China's Xi to snub UK climate summit
  3. Norway killings 'appeared to be' Islamist 'terrorism'
  4. Le Pen vows to 'dismantle' wind-power plants
  5. Slovenia PM tweets antisemitic conspiracy theory
  6. Italy sentences ship captain for Libya pushback
  7. Polish PM and von der Leyen to clash in Brussels next week
  8. MEPs call for improved roaming rules

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. MEPs urge Sassoli to sue EU Commission on rule of law
  2. MEPs seek EU law on bogus anti-media litigation
  3. Africa seeks EU help on global vaccine-waiver
  4. Giant of 20th century European design recognised by EU
  5. Italy on edge as neo-fascists stir violence
  6. Gas-price spike will backfire on industry, energy guru says
  7. Scientists raise alarm on Greenland's ice-sheet loss
  8. EU calls for ban on Arctic oil and gas drilling

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us