Portugal joined six other European countries on Wednesday in warning its citizens against doing business beyond the Green Line, with another 10 European countries expected to issue similar recommendations by the end of the week.
The advisory, which appeared on Portugal’s Foreign Ministry website, employed similar language used by Spain and Italy last week in warning their nationals against doing business and investing in the West bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
The statement said that the EU considers Israeli settlements as “illegal under international law,” and that they constitute an “obstacle to peace” and to a two state solution.
The statement warned that future agreements could have economic consequences for businesses or properties acquired in the settlements, and that before doing business people should “seek adequate legal counsel.”
France issued a similar warning last week, and Germany, Britain and the Netherlands did so earlier.
The concern in Jerusalem is less about any substantive economic damage that will come from these moves, since European investments in the settlements are limited, but rather that it will create an atmosphere that will enable spillage across the Green Line and affect business inside the pre-1967 lines.
Responding to the prospect of another 10 European countries following suit by the end of the week, one Israeli official said that he is not overly worried about these warnings coming from “Malta and Estonia.”
Israeli diplomats have over the last few months tried to fend off these efforts, but the official said the fact that a number of EU countries are nevertheless issuing these warnings should not be seen as a “diplomatic failure.”
“This obviously creates a negative buzz,” the official said. “But you can’t say we failed, because these are only advisories. It is not illegal to do business in the settlements, and there is no ban on settlement goods or on doing business in the settlements.”
These advisories are an easy way to placate voices inside the EU calling for stiffer action against the settlements, he said, without taking more potent action that might not hold up to legal challenges.
It was also significant, he said, that the EU has not been able to pass through a measure in the name of all 28-states, but rather that various states are doing so individually.