Europe determined to prevent Israeli settlement construction

The EU is ready to declare economic war on Israel

By Uri Savir, Al Monitor

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior source in the Brussels European Union foreign policy team has shared with Al-Monitor their thinking over resuming the peace process once the next Israeli government is established: “Watching the Israeli election campaign, we are dismayed by the fact that all the parties seem to ignore the central issue concerning Israel’s future — as we see it — namely, resolving the conflict with the Palestinians. Come May, Europe will not be able to ignore this anymore. We have on our hands a major strategic challenge in relation to the Arab and Muslim world. We are engaged in a fight against terror, both domestically and in the Middle East. And in this context, resolving the Palestinian predicament is of pivotal importance.”

The source outlined the European alternatives as of spring 2015. It seems that several senior officials in EU capitals favor a policy initiative that would include a UN Security Council resolution calling to resume negotiations, with “flexible language” as to the outcome of those negotiations. This flexible language would allow Europe to convince the United States not to cast a veto over the resolution. The EU source was most adamant on one issue: “The European Union will do its utmost to prevent the type of settlement expansion that characterized the previous Israeli government.” She even stipulated that a settlement freeze may very well be part of this Security Council resolution.

In Washington, a State Department source aware of the European thinking told Al-Monitor that, while the administration coordinates with the EU, the United States will not decide on its policy until after the Israeli elections. According to this source, whatever the scenario, the United States will make an effective effort to renew peace talks between the next Israeli government and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Nevertheless, the governments across the ocean see eye-to-eye on one issue: the need to freeze construction at the very least in settlements outside the settlement blocs. The Barack Obama administration, she said, considers the cooperation with the pragmatic Arab countries — Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia — as a strategic need: “The fight against terror and the issue of Palestinian statehood go hand in hand.”

Despite US reluctance, it seems that the Europeans at this point are more adamant than ever on coordinating policies on the Palestinian issue. The Brussels source raised the eventuality by which the next Israeli government would reject international peace initiatives and continue settlement expansion. In that case, the main EU member states, except for Germany and the Netherlands, will not hold back on punitive measures in response.

The source mentioned that the measures currently considered include excluding products produced beyond the Green Line from the EU-Israel preferential trade arrangements. Another possibility is prohibiting European governmental investments, not only in Israeli businesses beyond the Green Line but also in Israeli businesses inside Israel that have branches beyond the Green Line (such as banks). A third possible punitive measure considered by the EU could be denying Israeli academic institutions beyond the Green Line, or institutions with branches beyond the Green Line, any scientific or research and development advantages stemming from EU agreements with Israel.

Some EU officials are even considering demanding Israel to compensate damages to EU projects located beyond the Green Line — damages caused by settlement expansion. In the words of the Brussels EU official: “If Israeli settlement policy continues to sabotage the two-state solution, some EU members even foresee sanctions against Israel all together. Yet it is in Israel’s hands to prevent it.”

When asked about these European positions, the US State Department source said that the United States is now urging the Europeans to refrain from such punitive measures. Yet, she claimed that after the election, if the settlement policy continues, it will be virtually impossible to block the Europeans (Paris and London in particular) from initiating such policies. The United States, she emphasized, will categorically impress upon the next Israeli government, irrespective of who heads it, that continued settlement expansion could have devastating consequences.

Within the Israeli government, these are considered empty threats. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is already coordinating with Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett the continuation of settlement expansion, in case of Netanyahu’s anticipated victory. In the outgoing government, Netanyahu has created a system of appropriating vast funds for settlement construction, in an almost clandestine way, through the Finance Committee of the Knesset. This was exposed and objected to by Labor Knesset member Stav Shaffir. On the issue of settlements, Netanyahu believes that he can fool “all of the people all of the time.” It seems that the international community is determined to put an end to these practices. But even if President Obama and the EU object loudly, there is always the Republican Congress.

Ambassador Uri Savir has spent his professional life on the strategies of peacemaking in Israel. In 1996, he established the Peres Center for Peace and is currently the Center’s honorary president. In 2011, Savir founded the Yala Young Leaders online Peace Movement.

January 26, 2015 | 7 Comments »

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7 Comments / 7 Comments

  1. The EU does not have the means to impose a solution to the Palestinians. Then what if they refuse? Squeeze more Israel?Savir did not get the info on how the EU will deal with Palestinian obstructionism!

  2. 70 years later, Europe remains as antisemitic as ever. The sad thing is that many Jews don’t get it. Like wise the West refuses to acknowledge the possibility that Iran is EVIL beside Sunnis evilness. Russia has sided with Iran and China is waiting.

  3. 70 years later, Europe remains as antisemitic as ever. The sad thing is that many Jews don’t get it. Like wise the West refuse to acknowledge the possibility that Iran is EVIL beside Sunnis evilness. Russia has sided with Iran and China is waiting.

  4. @ bernard ross:
    As a matter of fact, BR, compelling Fatah and Hamas to accept Israeli-manufactured goods and blocking EU access to ship their goods to either gang, is a fine idea.

    Also, manufacture those goods in Shomron and Yehuda in Jewish-owned and Jewish-managed factories and workshops, by Jewish and Arab workers. And label them as such.

    In any case, not to worry. Starting with the Greeks, and to be followed by the Italians, Spaniards, Portuguese, and maybe the Irish and English, and Germany too, when their taxpayers and bankers tire of picking up the checks for all of southern Europe’s free lunches. With the coming of all that, EU may well soon begin to dissolve around the edges.

    And, not to forget that as the reviving Russian Empire takes back various parts of historical Russia in eastern and southern Ukraine, and NATO is plainly shown as being as toothless as Obama’s USA in stopping them, you will see NATO start dissolving as well. One thing you can say for the Russians; they’re nobody’s suckers, and they know how to play from strength.

    What at one time was labeled the Concert of Europe will begin resembling little more than the old fashioned street organ grinder with his millions of Arabic-speaking pet monkeys, putting on their talent show for the neighborhood. As they did recently in Paris.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI

  5. I just read this at AM and posted. Hopefully the euros will have more on their plate as Vlad knocks at their door and the honor killers keep causing them problems internally. Much of europes bluster has to do with appeasing their muslim internal populations but I doubt this will work for them as it failed when they also tried to appease the nazis with Jewish sacrifices. Israel must continue to look elsewhere expanding its trade to the east to reduce risk. Perhaps helping more musims to emigrate to europe would help in that regard. Setting up more covert smuggling rings but with lower prices should also increase emigration directly to europe thus killing two birds with one stone. The best thing for Israel is strife and chaos in europe as they are the main facilitators of the local jew killers.

  6. Good ole don Savir is still spreading poison?
    Not worth the time to go further into that item’s writings.