EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana..
(photo credit: AP)
Twenty-six former European Union leaders, including the EU’s former top diplomat, Javier Solana, issued a letter last week calling for boycotts and sanctions targeting Israel due to settlement construction.
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According to the letter, which was reported on the euobserver.com website and addressed to EU leaders, the Jewish state, “like any other state,” ought to be slapped with “the consequences” and “a price tag” for its construction of housing in the West Bank.
Ten former European leaders signed the December 6 letter, including Germany’s former president Richard von Weizsäcker and ex-chancellor Helmut Schmidt, former Irish president Mary Robinson, former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez and Thorvald Stoltenberg, an ex-Norwegian foreign and defense minister.
The 26 signatories called for the EU to prohibit import of products made in settlements, and demanded that Israel fund the bulk of aid to Palestinians. The letter also urged the EU to make an upgrade of relations with Israel contingent on the cessation of settlement construction.
“Israel’s continuation of settlement activity... poses an existential threat to the prospects of establishing a sovereign, contiguous and viable Palestinian state,” the letter read.
Meanwhile, responding to the US decision to drop its settlement freeze demand, Catherine Ashton, the EU’s head of foreign affairs, wrote, “I note with regret that Israel has not been in a position to accept an extension of the moratorium as requested by the US, the EU and the Quartet. The EU position on settlements is clear: They are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. Recent settlement related developments, including in east Jerusalem, contradict the efforts by the international community for successful negotiations.”
In an interview with the BBC, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the former EU leaders’ fixation on the settlements is “strange and harmful.”
“It is difficult to see how the call for sanctions and Israel’s isolation will promote peace, but clearly this will diminish the EU’s capability to play a constructive role in promoting peace in the region,” Palmor said.
He said that if the EU accepted the recommendations laid out in the letter, this would “totally sideline” it from the peace process. “To recommend sanctions against Israel,” he added, “is not only to ignore the simple fact that settlements never constituted an obstacle to peace and to territorial withdrawal, but it is also the most unhelpful way to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to reconciliation, compromise and peace.”
Another government official said that the letter was completely the wrong signal to send to the Palestinians at this time. “One of the problems we are facing now is that the Palestinians are disengaging from negotiations,” the official said, adding that Israel was concerned that the Palestinians were concluding there was no reason to negotiate because they can get a solution to their liking imposed from the outside.
Letters such as these, however well intended, “are only going to strengthen Palestinian intransigence since they will think there is another option,” the official said.
Tirawi expressed fear of an “explosion” in the Palestinian territories,
not only because of the settlements, but also due to the “threat” to the
Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem.
“I’ve been reading about warnings from an Israeli security official that
parts of the Aksa Mosque may collapse,” he said. “I have warned in the
past and say now that we can speculate what would happen if one stone of
the Aksa Mosque falls. I fear we are headed toward an explosion. This
could be the trigger that would set a fire in the whole region.”
Tirawi said he supported the idea of dismantling the PA once the peace
process collapsed so that Israel would be held fully responsible for the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
“Israel is not bearing any responsibility for occupation,” he said. “Occupation should not be that cheap for Israel.”