The European Union is to send a team to Israel on Monday in search of a
sensitive way to move forward on the guidelines against Israeli entities in West
Bank settlements and east Jerusalem.
The EU decision in July to issue the
guidelines that clarified its policy against providing grants, prizes or loans
to Israeli entities, including non-profit and educational institutions, located
over the pre-1967 lines, angered Israel, which said it was counterproductive to
the peace process.
On Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry asked EU
foreign ministers who met in Vilnius, Lithuania to delay any action on the
matter given that direct talks were renewed between Israel and the Palestinian
Authority at the end of July.
At a briefing with reporters prior to the
meeting, a senior state department official said, “The secretary’s message to
the EU foreign ministers will be very clear, that now that the parties are in
negotiations and both leaders took difficult and painful – politically painful
decisions in order to get into these direct negotiations – that it’s important
for those parties who have an interest in a successful outcome that they be
supportive of this effort and that they find a way to embrace the negotiators
and encourage them to move forward, rather than, as it were metaphorically, bang
them over the head.”
When asked about Kerry’s request at a press
conference after the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said, “I
want to reiterate the issue of the guidelines, that this is putting down on
paper what is currently the EU’s position.” She added, “We will be sending a
team to Israel on Monday... to make sure that in the implementation, we are
doing so sensitively.
We of course want to continue to have a strong
relationship with Israel.”
PLO executive committee member Dr. Hanan
Ashrawi expressed concern over Kerry’s request to the EU.
announcement of the EU guidelines was a very positive step which played a
significant role in the decision to resume negotiations. By refusing to extend
grants and awards beyond the Green Line, these guidelines reinforce the 1967
border and play a constructive role in reaffirming the two-state solution,
something which can only help the cause of peace.
“Reports of US lobbying the EU
on behalf of Israel are extremely discouraging and cast serious doubts on the US
mediation role,” Ashrawi added. “Once again the US is using the negotiations
process to grant Israel immunity and to buy it more time to create facts on the
ground, thereby rendering the so-called ‘peace process’ a self-defeating
Separately, the EU is working on legal guidelines for any of
its member states that might choose to clearly label products produced in West
These products are already marked so that customs
officials know not to include them in tax-free trade agreements with
The guidelines are to be used to help member states to inform
consumers that they were produced in West Bank settlements.
are a reflection of long-standing EU policy with regard to West Bank
settlements. But until recently they had not been so blatantly stated.
Saturday’s press conference, Ashton said that Kerry should be credited for his
efforts in supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
optimistic that his efforts will hopefully lead to success,” she said.
part of Kerry’s efforts to continue to facilitate those talks, he plans on
Sunday to meet with Arab ministers in Paris and with PA President Mahmoud Abbas,
in a meeting that is expected to last for several hours.
According to a
senior state department official, a similar meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu planned during Kerry’s trip was canceled.
Netanyahu felt it was important at this tense time for him not to leave Israel,
and, because the secretary has to be back in Washington for very important
business there, we couldn’t work it out on this particular trip. But he will be
conducting a similar conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu very soon, as
soon as we can work out the schedule for them,” the official
Palestinians have reported that no progress has been made in the
talks. But on Saturday night, settlers said they believed it was possible that
the talks could yield to the evacuation of West Bank settlements.
are so concerned that they are holding a protest on Sunday morning in front of
the Prime Minister’s Office against such an evacuation.
rabbis, council heads and other political settler leaders are expected to be at
Stay on top of the news - get the Jerusalem Post headlines direct to your inbox!