Thursday, July 16, 2020

European Union Bans Settlement Funding

By Fatima Masri - July 21, 2013
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [settlements] [European Union] [Peace Process] [Geneva Conventions]

Israeli Settlement.  Photo credit: Reuters

On June 30th the European Union published a directive that bars its 28 member states from contracting agreements for funding, awarding scholarships, prizes or research grants to residents living in Israeli settlements. Any future contracts between the EU and Israel will include a “territorial applicability clause” indicating the exclusion of the territories occupied in 1967 from the agreement, obliging Israel to put into words that settlements are not part of the Israeli State.

The directive officially went in effect on Friday July 19th and will regulate the parameters of Israeli-EU cooperation from 2014 to 2020, despite efforts made by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres to freeze the publication.  The ruling applies only to direct funding and does not include a ban on commerce between the settlements and the EU thereby safeguarding the EU’s position as Israel’s largest trading partner.

The “territorial applicability clause” ends the ambiguity that has characterized the European Union’s policy towards the settlements. According to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the transfer of parts of the occupying powers own civilian population onto occupied land is pursuable by the International Court of Justice as a war crime. The move allows the European Union to silence critics and prove its capability to take concrete action against those who breach international agreements. 

At the same time, including a clause on settlements gives new legitimacy to funds directed to Israel within the frame of a relationship strengthened by the guilt for the holocaust. As the EU delegation in Israel noted, the aim is “to be sure that Israel’s participation [in projects benefitting from EU funding] is not put into question so that Israel will be in a position to make use of all possibilities offered by the new financial framework.” 

Drawing a line between Israel and its settlements in the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem marks a move from formal condemnation to concrete action

Drawing a line between Israel and its settlements in the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem marks a move from formal condemnation to concrete action, a step that will have “a positive impact on the chances of peace”, PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said to Ma’an News

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin took an opposite stand on the future implications of the EU directive, defining it a “mistake” that undermines the future possibilities of peace. On Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is engaged in a new campaign to revive peace talks in the area, warning him of the detrimental effects the EU stand would have on the possibility of conducting new peace talks. Netanyahu had previously rejected the new EU guidelines, stating that Israel will not accept “any external dictates on our borders”.

More than 500,000 Jews live in 100+ settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, settlement land accounting for approximately 43 per cent of the West Bank and consuming 75 per cent of its water. In times of drought, Jewish settlers are given priority access to water resources.  Taking over the land in the West Bank is understood by Orthodox Jews as a return to the Biblical land of Judea and Samaria ordained by God. For the Israeli government, the EU guidelines are unacceptable as they damage those Israelis who are viewed as exerting a religious right to their ancestral homeland.  

Netanyahu’s attempts to mediate between external and internal influences have so far been oriented towards denying the centrality of the settlement issue in resuming peace talks: "Settlements [in the West Bank and East Jerusalem blocs] do not significantly change our ability to reach an agreement – that is a false claim. The real question is whether there is or isn't a willingness among the Palestinians to accept a Jewish state." On the other side of the wall, Palestinian leaders have long stressed their refusal to resume peace talks unless Israel agrees to freeze settlement construction and agree that all future status agreements will be based on 1967 borders. 





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