Why should the EU boycott Israel?

Middle east : EU boycott of settlements outraged Israel

It is a conflict with an announcement: as early as December, the EU foreign ministers were “deeply dismayed” by Israel's settlement plans in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They are seen as an obstacle to a future two-state solution with the Palestinians. At the same time, the European chief diplomats decided at the time that any kind of cooperation between Europeans and Israelis did not apply to the areas they had conquered in the 1967 Six Day War. The EU Commission is now implementing these requirements piece by piece - and is reaping sharp reactions from Israel. The sometimes difficult relationship between the European Union and Israel has thus reached a low point.

On Friday, the guidelines for the next budget period from 2014 to 2020 should appear in the EU law gazette. As of January 1, the new EU rule will come into force, which excludes the promotion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Golan Heights or East Jerusalem. In fact, that is already the case. Of the around 800 million euros that have flowed into Israeli research and development projects since 2007, only around four million euros went to the West Bank - 0.5 percent. In future, an Israeli applicant must not only show that he is located within the so-called green line that marked the Israeli border before 1967, but also indicate which eligible activities take place there.

On Wednesday, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to prevent the guidelines from being published in a telephone conversation with EU Commission chief José Manuel Barroso. They not only worsened relations, argued the prime minister, according to diplomats, but also the chances of a solution to the Middle East conflict. The EU, says Netanyahu, is undermining the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is currently holding talks on the possibility of resuming the peace talks that have been blocked since 2010. Barroso is said to have only emphasized that the details of the future funding criteria could be worked out together by the end of the year. In general, the promotion of Israel is "not called into question".

The EU foreign affairs representative Catherine Ashton is generally sticking to the tough position. "The EU has long been of the opinion that the Israeli settlements are in violation of international law," says its spokeswoman, "we are not changing our policy." As early as 2000, an association agreement came into force that provides for trade facilitation for Israeli products - as long as they do not expire occupied territories originate. Tomatoes from the Israeli heartland are cheaper in Europe than those from the West Bank. Since 2008, due to a lack of progress in the peace process, talks about an even more far-reaching partnership agreement have been on hold.

In terms of atmosphere, of course, something is changing for the worse because the EU makes the separation between the heartland and the occupied territory a prerequisite for all future agreements. And things are likely to get worse: According to a ruling by the European Court of Justice, the cosmetics company Ahava is not allowed to export to Europe on preferential terms, as a production facility is located in the West Bank. The EU Commission is already working on the next administrative regulation in this regard - a distinction should be made between “bad” and “good” products from Israel. The trouble is programmed.

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