Israel to review EU Palestinian projects in settlement goods feud

Israel to review EU Palestinian projects in settlement goods feud

Israel to review EU Palestinian projects in settlement goods feud

Israeli settlers prepare olive oil containers at the Achia Olive press factory in the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the occupied West Bank on November 12, 2015. The European Union announced that goods from settlements -- Jewish communities built in areas occupied by force in 1967 -- must be specifically labelled, infuriating Israel. The EU ruling affects products imported from settlements in the occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and Golan Heights, all taken by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. AF

Israel threatened on Nov. 30 to review its cooperation with European Union projects that benefit Palestinians in the West Bank, citing the bloc’s labelling of exports from Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied territory. 

The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced on Nov. 29 that Israel was suspending its contacts with European Union bodies involved in peace efforts with the Palestinians, condemning the EU guidelines on settlement products published on Nov. 11. 

With talks on Palestinian statehood frozen since 2014, there seemed to little peace diplomacy for this decision to affect. 

But the EU decision that goods produced in settlements be marked as such rather than “Made in Israel” touched a nerve in Netanyahu’s right-wing government, which has long decried efforts by the BDS - boycott, divestment and sanctions - movement to isolate Israel over policies towards Palestinians. 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon seemed to expand the scope of Israel’s steps against the EU, a major donor to the Palestinian Authority that exercises limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank, by saying it could be frozen out of some initiatives aimed at bettering Palestinian lives. 

“It is true that there is no peace process ... but the European Union wants to be involved in a variety of projects, some of them ... regarding Palestinian welfare,” he said. 

“With all those projects, we will need to re-examine whether it is feasible to consider the European Union as a partner while it is using measures of discrimination and boycott against the State of Israel.” 

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki called the Israeli move a “stupid threat” that he said exposed arrogance and enmity towards the EU. 

The Israeli foreign ministry made clear that contacts with individual EU countries - it named Germany, France and Britain - would not be affected by the move against EU projects with Palestinians. 

In a sign that the Israeli move stopped short of any boycott of officials representing the bloc as a whole, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Nov. 30 in Paris, on the sidelines of the global climate conference. 

“EU-Israel relations are good, broad and deep and this will continue,” a European Commission spokeswoman told reporters in Brussels while announcing the meeting had taken place. 

The spokeswoman played down the labelling decision as merely the implementation of an existing policy already being enforced by some EU states.