Israel has severed cooperation with the European Union in Area C of the West Bank in response to new measures the EU has taken against settlements.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered the IDF’s civil administration to cease cooperation in joint projects with the EU, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
This means that the IDF will refuse to grant new permits or renew existing permits for EU construction projects in Area C, which is territory under Israeli civil and military control. It also will not issue or renew any documents that EU personnel might need for travel in the West Bank or into Gaza from Israel.
In addition, IDF offices in the West Bank, such as the civil administration and the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, will no longer hold work meetings with EU officials or personnel.
Some of the EU-led projects in the West Bank include a program to train Palestinian Authority police officers in basic and advanced policing skills, and a waste removal program.
Neither will receive Israel’s cooperation any longer.
Ya’alon’s decision was first reported on the Walla Hebrew Web portal and NRG Hebrew news site on Thursday, and was confirmed by The Jerusalem Post.
His directive came as the EU was increasing its involvement in the development of Palestinian projects in Area C. It also followed a series of EU decisions in the past half-year against West Bank settlements.
In December 2012, the European Union decided that future agreements with Israel would explicitly state that they did not apply to areas beyond the pre-1967 lines. The exact language to be used in future agreements and understandings with the EU is still under discussion.
Last week the EU published new guidelines, which clarified that prizes, grants and funding could not be awarded to Israeli entities, including non-profits and educational institutions, located beyond the pre-1967 lines.
Separately, the EU is working on legal guidelines for any of its member states that might choose to label products as having been produced in West Bank settlements.
These products are already marked to inform European customs officials enforcing tax-free trade agreements with Israel. The new guidelines will be used for consumer labeling purposes.
The new measures are a reflection of longstanding EU policy with regard to West Bank settlements. Only recently were they so blatantly stated, with Israel having failed in its efforts to prevent this.
When the EU published its latest guidelines on prizes and grants last week, the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip called on the government to halt EU-funded projects in Area C.
The council said on Thursday night that it welcomed Ya’alon’s decision.
“We hope Israel will continue to respond to those who take unilateral steps against it,” said its director-general, Yigal Delmonti. “Already two weeks ago we said that the EU has taken a clear pro-Palestinian stance and cannot be considered a neutral party.”
On Thursday night, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Defense Ministry, COGAT and the EU refused to issue a response to the report of Ya’alon’s decision.