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24th Feb 2024

EU may threaten 'action' against Israeli settlements

  • Israeli settler in Hebron, West Bank (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

EU states are planning to threaten “action” against Israeli settlements, according to a draft text, seen by EUobserver, to be endorsed by foreign ministers on Monday (18 January).

“The EU will continue to closely monitor developments … 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 draft statement says.

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  • Number of settlers grew by 16,000 a year between 2009 and 2014, Peace Now says (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

“The EU will continue to unequivocally and explicitly make the distinction between Israel and all territories occupied by Israel in 1967, by ensuring inter alia the non-applicability of all EU agreements with the state of Israel, in form and in implementation, to these territories,” it adds.

It also “urges Israel to end all settlement activity and to dismantle the outposts erected since March 2001.”

It “firmly condemns the terror attacks” of the so-called Knife Intifada - the outbreak of Palestinian stabbings and car-rammings of Israelis.

But it urges Israel to “adhere strictly to the principles of necessity and proportionality in the use of force.”

It links Palestinian unrest to lack of faith in peace talks. “Only the reestablishment of a political horizon and the resumption of dialogue can stop the violence,” it says.

In another part, it voices “concern” on “attempts to stifle civil society both in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.”

Settlers mushroom

The EU statement comes as the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank keeps growing by 16,000 a year, putting the viability of a future Palestinian state in doubt.

Israel has, since the last EU statement on the conflict, in July 2015, advanced 2,410 new housing units.

Peace Now, an Israeli NGO, says it's planning 67,000 more.

Amid the talk of "further action," the EU, last year, published a code for EU retail labels on settler food, wine, and cosmetics exports, prompting Israeli outrage.

Meanwhile, Palestinian assailants killed 27 Israelis since October, when the knife and car attacks began, according to the BBC. Israeli security forces killed 155 Palestinians in the same time.

Sweden's foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, last week, also outraged Israel by calling for an “investigation into these [Palestinian] deaths in order to clarify and bring about possible accountability.”

The EU's concern on civil society alludes to an Israeli bill to designate foreign-funded NGOs as “foreign agents” and tax them more heavily.

Greek objection

The draft statement was discussed by EU states’ ambassadors in the Political and Security Committee (PSC) in Brussels on Friday.

An EU source said Greece voiced objections and that the PSC will meet again on Sunday or Monday morning to agree the final language, before foreign ministers rubber-stamp it.

The source said Greece wants to cut the paragraph on "EU will continue to unequivocally and explicitly make the distinction between Israel and all territories occupied by Israel." It also wants more references to acts of "terrorism" against Israel.

Haaretz, an Israeli daily, reports, citing Israeli officials, that France, Ireland, and Sweden back strong wording on settlements.

It says Germany is “trying” to promote Israeli concerns “but … not succeeding.”

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