(photo credit: AFP/ DANIEL ROLAND)
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office dismissed as “nonsense” reports on Thursday that Israel would take sanctions against six EU countries seen as leading the campaign to label products from the settlements.
According to a report by the Walla news site, the Foreign Ministry has drawn up a list of six countries leading in the settlement labeling effort – Sweden, Belgium, Ireland, France, Luxembourg and Malta – and recommended that their efforts to further projects in the West Bank and Gaza be given a cold shoulder from Israel. This recommendation was passed onto Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the foreign minister.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry would not comment on the report, saying that he would not discuss internal ministry deliberations.
But a source in the Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu – who earlier this week directed the Foreign Ministry to suspend talks with the EU over the diplomatic process with the Palestinians, pending a reassessment of its ties with EU institutions – has no intention of sanctioning individual countries, such as France, with whom Israel has strong and important ties.
Netanyahu has been careful in distinguishing between what he has called the “EU bureaucracy in Brussels,” which he feels has taken a one-sided, pro-Palestinian position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and many of the individual states that make up the EU.
Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel has a problem “especially with a part of the EU establishment. There is a certain gap I am obligated to focus on so that the public dialogue will more closely start to approximate reality.”
Netanyahu said his response to the settlement labeling decision was “that we will freeze, suspend dialogue on the Palestinian issue with them, because they are detached,” he continued.
In addition to the six countries listed above, the foreign ministers of another nine countries – Britain, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Croatia, Portugal and Slovenia – signed a letter earlier in the year urging EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to move forward on settlement labeling.
The foreign ministers of another 13 EU countries – Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia – did not sign that letter. Senior officials in some of these countries, such as Germany, Greece and Hungary, have come out against the move.