‘Earthquake’ directive bans EU financial support to Israeli settlements
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.
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
Meanwhile the Palestinians have praised the new measure as a concrete step to protect their aspirations of statehood.
"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."