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16 Jul, 2013 20:07

‘Earthquake’ directive bans EU financial support to Israeli settlements

‘Earthquake’ directive bans EU financial support to Israeli settlements

The EU will block all future financial assistance to the Israeli settlement zones as they are illegal under international law. Israel, who opposes the directive, warned it will affect “all realms of cooperation” and create “bad blood” with the EU.

The new regulation will come into effect on Friday and will “make a distinction between the state of Israel and the occupied territories when it comes to EU support.” It essentially means that funding, scholarships and cooperation will not be granted to any individual or organization in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights settlements.

Every future deal that is struck with Israel will be required to include a written clause exempting the settlement territories from the terms of the agreement. The ban will apply to all areas beyond the ‘Green Line,’ which includes all territories acquired by the Israelis since the 1967 Middle East War.

"The EU has made it clear that it will not recognize any changes to pre-1967 borders, other than those agreed by the parties to the Middle East Peace Process," a copy of the guidelines seen by Reuters said. The move comes amid EU frustration at the ongoing Israeli settlement program in spite of international pressures.

AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana

The Israeli government reacted sharply to the new legislation, condemning it as an affront to their sovereignty. An Israeli official likened the new regulations to an “earthquake” that “turns understandings and quiet agreements that the [EU] does not work beyond the Green Line" into "formal, binding policy".

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the EU to pull out of what Israel sees as a bilateral issue with the Palestinians.

"We will not accept any external dictates regarding our borders. This issue will be determined only in direct negotiation between the sides," Netanyahu said in a public broadcast. He went on to stress that the EU should pay more attention to “problems that are slightly more urgent in the region, like the civil war in Syria, or Iran's race to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

Meanwhile the Palestinians have praised the new measure as a concrete step to protect their aspirations of statehood.

AFP Photo / Menahem Kahana

"The EU has moved from the level of statements, declarations and denunciations to effective policy decisions and concrete steps which constitute a qualitative shift that will have a positive impact on the chances of peace," said senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi.

The new hardline policy follows a decision by EU foreign ministers in December which stipulated that “all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”

The international community regards the Israeli expansion settlements as illegal under international law.
In November of last year the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve Palestine’s status as a 'non-member state.' Following the announcement, Israel pledged to construct 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Peace negotiations were put on hold three years ago because of Israel’s settlement program. Israeli officials have argued this new measure sends out the wrong message to the Palestinians because “it leads them to believe that Israel will be forced to surrender to economic and diplomatic pressure."