Ashton and Netanyahu shake hands 370.
(photo credit: Courtesy - GPO)
A spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton
said that Brussels was looking into media reports that Israel was
reducing cooperation with EU diplomats seeking to advance projects for
the benefit of Palestinians in the West Bank.
Israel has blocked
the European Union from aiding tens of thousands of Palestinians in the
West Bank, in retaliation for an EU ban on financial assistance to
Israeli organizations in the territories.
The EU imposed its
restrictions last week, citing its frustration over the continued
expansion of Jewish settlements in territory captured by Israeli forces
in the 1967 Middle East War. The new guidelines render Israeli entities
operating there ineligible for EU grants, prizes or loans, beginning
An Israeli official said on Friday the Jewish state
was compelled to respond to the EU's decision "to sanction or boycott
"From our standpoint we cannot just ignore this or treat spitting in our face as though it is rain," the official said.
leaders say the aid they receive from Europe is minimal. But many in
Israel worry about knock-on effects the EU steps may have on individuals
or companies based in Israel that might be involved in business in the
settlements, deemed illegal by the international community.
Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Defense
Minister Moshe Ya'alon had decided to suspend contacts with the EU in
the West Bank.
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Ya'alon has "frozen projects,
canceled meetings, curtailed coordination and permits for Europe's
operations" for Palestinians living in what is known as Area C, a West
Bank area fully administered by Israel, he said.
Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine
Ashton, said: "The EU is concerned by reports in the Israeli media that
the Israeli Minister of Defense has announced a number of restrictions
affecting EU activities supporting the Palestinian people."
have not received any official communication from the Israeli
authorities. Our delegations on the spot are seeking urgent
clarifications," Kocijancic added.
A Western diplomat, speaking
on condition of anonymity, said that due to the Israeli measures,
several European humanitarian aid staff had failed to receive permits to
enter the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip.
Under the terms of a
1993 interim peace accord, some 150,000 Palestinians, many of them poor
farmers and shepherds living in Area C, a West Bank zone where many
settlements have been built, are fully under Israeli military control.
Palestinians have limited self-rule over other parts of the West Bank,
and share joint custody with Israel over yet other areas.
Europe's assistance in the West Bank goes to Palestinians for building
homes. But many have been designated illegal and demolished by Israel.
Association of International Development Agencies, a coalition of 80
aid groups, said in a report in May that 600 settler houses had been
built since mid-2012, while Israel demolished 535 Palestinian-owned
homes and structures.
The United States, Israel's main backer,
has been trying to revive peace talks that have been deadlocked for
three years and are aimed at reaching an agreement for the Palestinians
to establish a state alongside Israel.
After months of
painstaking talks with both sides, US Secretary of State John Kerry said
two weeks ago they had laid the groundwork for a breakthrough.
and Palestinian negotiators may meet in Washington as soon as on
Tuesday, July 30, a senior Palestinian official told Reuters on
condition of anonymity, after an Israeli minister's said on Thursday
that talks were likely by next week.
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