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EU Considering Sanctions Against Israel over Settlements

Ramat Shlomo (Photo: Wikipedia)

Illegal Israeli settlement of Ramat Shlomo (Photo: Wikipedia)

The European Union is weighing punitive measures targeting Israel over its continuing illegal Jewish settler colonization of Palestinian territory.

The leading Israeli daily Haaretz has obtained an internal EU document, drafted by the Political and Security Committee in Brussels, containing a list of potential sanctions to be imposed if Israel continues to act in a manner which makes the establishment of an independent Palestinian state impossible.

Among the possible punishments being considered are sanctions against European corporations that do business in Israeli settlements, boycotts of pro-settlement government officials and settler organizations, and individual EU member states’ recognition of Palestinian statehood.

Currently, EU members Hungary, Slovakia, Malta, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Poland and Sweden recognize Palestine. More than 130 nations have done so worldwide.

The EU document also proposes reconsideration of “funding or capacity-building activities indirectly helping to perpetuate the status quo of occupation,” as well as “support, or non-opposition” for Palestinian moves including “applications to international organizations” and seeking international recognition.

Senior European diplomats told Haaretz that the Political and Security Committee, which is comprised of the ambassadors of the EU’s 28 member states, that there is widespread anger among European officials, including “foreign ministers… who are considered extremely close to Israel,” over Israeli policies and actions which endanger the establishment of a Palestinian state or render such an event impossible.

“A large group of member states pushed for this move after the failure of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and after the war in Gaza,” the diplomats said of the proposed measures.

International observers, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, have blamed Israel’s continued and expanding settlement building for derailing peace talks aimed at achieving a two-state solution.

Additionally, there is widespread international shock and outrage over Israel’s recent Operation Protective Edge war against Hamas and other rocket-firing Islamist militants in Gaza, a brutal and bloody 50-day offensive which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and left much of Gaza in ruins. The majority of the dead were innocent civilians, including 495 children and 253 women.

These and other Israeli actions have infuriated and frustrated even some of the Jewish state’s closest European allies, the diplomats told Haaretz.

“Several states, including some that are considered great friends of Israel, are the ones who conceived the move and are now hiding behind the EU’s foreign service so that it can act as the bad cop,” they said.

“This is not a case in which Eurocrats in Brussels are working against Israel on their own,” the European diplomats said. “This is a sign that a great deal of anger and frustration exist in the member states. In recent months there were meetings of European foreign ministers in which ministers, who are considered extremely close to Israel, spoke in the most critical way against the policies of Netanyahu’s government.”

The diplomats cited the united resolve of all EU member states as cause for concern among all Israelis.

“The fact is that there is an agreement among all 28 member countries of the European Union to discuss measures against Israel, and that is what should worry the government in Jerusalem and the Israeli public,” they toldHaaretz.

The issue of the Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law and which some critics, including Jewish-American United Nations human rights monitor Richard Falk, call a form of ethnic cleansing, is directly connected to Palestinian independence. Israeli settlement construction in E1 area between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, as well as in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Givat Hamatos and Har Homa, both of which lie on the Palestinian side of the Green Line, threaten the establishment of a truly independent and contiguous Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.

The EU document also proposes potential punitive measures targeting Palestinians in response to negative actions. Among these are dissuading Palestinian officials from seeking greater international recognition.

The Telegraph reports the proposed penalties drew a stern rebuke from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

“There is no place for linking the bilateral relations between Israel and the European Union to the relations between Israel and the Palestinians,” Lieberman said following a meeting with visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

“One thing should be clear: we will never accept the definition of building in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem as settlement activity. We won’t accept any limitation on building in Jewish areas of [East] Jerusalem,” added Lieberman.

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