It was another topsy-turvy week in the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians. What began as an attempt by the European Union to flex its economic muscles to curb the expansion of Israeli settlements, ended in an impressive achievement by Secretary of State John Kerry, who managed to bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to talk about peace once again. Although these events are unrelated, the first represents exasperation with Israel’s policy of expanding settlements without any domestic or international restraints. The other represents sheer persistence and optimism on the part of Mr. Kerry, that a permanent solution for this decades-long conflict could and should be achieved around the negotiation table, and preferably brokered by the United States.
EU cracks down on settlements
The message from Europe is that this asymmetry cannot last indefinitely and that Israelis should wake up to the fact that the international community is losing its patience with the lack of solution.Yossi Mekelberg
In a seemingly innocent looking Notice the EU Commission changed the eligibility of Israeli entities from access to ‘grants, prizes and financial instruments’ funded by the EU if they are active in the Palestinian occupied territories. Apparently, no one should be surprised by this or any other step the EU takes in order to influence the Israeli government to change its settlements’ policy. For decades now, EU leaders have condemned the building of settlements, and earlier this year leading EU diplomats stated that, “…settlement construction remains the biggest single threat to the two-state solution. It is systematic, deliberate and provocative." Moreover, the new guidelines also follow a decision taken by the foreign ministers of the EU last December at the EU Foreign Affairs Council, where it was declared that agreements between the State of Israel and the EU should not apply to any territories occupied by Israel in June 1967.