Efrat settlement 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner )
Members of the European Parliament who favor labeling settlement products are misinformed about coexistence in the West Bank, Fiorello Provera, vice chairman of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, said at the Knesset on Wednesday.
Provera visited the Knesset as a guest of the Shomron Liaison Office, which has brought more than 60 members of the European Parliament to the West Bank in an attempt to fight delegitimization and boycotts of Israel.
The MEP met with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked and Shas co-chairman Eli Yishai.
Provera, a member of Italy’s Northern League party, spoke out against labeling settlement products following a visit to Ariel University and the Barkan Industrial Park in Samaria, where 3,000 Jews and 3,000 Arabs work together.
“I don’t support restrictions in this area, because they can harm factories where Israeli and Palestinian employees work together, have similar salaries, make the same sacrifices and have the same possibilities for attaining a good standard of living in dignity,” he said.
“Harming these factories’ ability to function would damage coexistence.”
Provera said he plans to oppose motions to label settlement products and to continue to support the EU-Israel Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of industrial products (ACAA), which allows Israeli products, including pharmaceuticals, get to the European market more quickly.
“Coexistence on the ground between Israelis and Palestinians is a good example of practical policy. I’m in favor of this bottom-up coexistence,” he said.
The best way for Israel to fight settlement product labeling, he explained, is to make sure MEPs are informed.
“Information is crucial for us to make up our minds and have an opinion,” Provera said.
“Without real information, we cannot decide what is right and wrong.”
He added that he is sure that most MEPs are misinformed about life in Israel, including Judea and Samaria.
The Italian MEP was reluctant to speak about whether the new government in his country would be better or worse for Israel, saying that he’d rather give it time and see what it does.
He was enthusiastic, however, about past statements by new Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino that Israel should join the European Union.
“This is a good idea, and surely would be advantageous for the EU,” Provera said. “I don’t know what is the common opinion in Israel about this possibility, but Israel is a country of culture and democracy, of human rights and rule of law, and is the country of a deep and ancient civilization.
“In my mind, Israel is part of the [European] Continent,” he added.
Provera came to the Knesset as part of a project initiated by the Samaria Regional Council under chairman Gershon Mesika, to turn the Shomron Liaison Office into a kind of foreign ministry for the region.
“The biggest danger to Israel in the world is delegitimization.
Our biggest enemy is ignorance,” Yossi Dagan, Mesika’s deputy, explained. “We want to show people that life in Samaria is at the point of noreturn; it cannot be evacuated.”
Dagan added that the Shomron Liaison Office is working to create an anti-boycott coalition within the EU.
“We talk openly about our right to the land - that’s what's so convincing,” he said.