Abbas to lobby EU to support sanctions against West Bank settlements

PA fears Brussels may delay action against settlements under pressure from US out of fear it could harm ongoing peace talks.

Palestinians hurl slingshots at IDF troops 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinians hurl slingshots at IDF troops 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to visit three European countries this week to discuss activating EU regulations against West Bank settlements and Jewish areas of east Jerusalem.
In July, the EU issued guidelines that clarified its policy against providing grants, prizes or loans to Israeli entities, including nonprofit and educational institutions, that operate over the pre-1967 lines.
The newly clarified restrictions are scheduled to go into effect on January 1.
Separately, the EU is working on legal guidelines for any of its member states that might choose to require consumer labels for products produced in West Bank settlements.
The PA leadership fears the EU may delay action against settlements under pressure from the US administration out of fear it could harm the current peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel.
The US has already asked the EU not to move forward on the matter.
Abbas, who is expected to visit Germany, Italy and Belgium, will urge the leaders of the three countries to go ahead with the EU plan to impose sanctions, a Palestinian official in Ramallah said.
“The EU directive regarding the settlements will be at the top of the agenda of Abbas’s talks,” the official said. “The Palestinians attach huge importance to this decision, because it creates international pressure on Israel to stop settlement construction.”
Israeli and EU representatives are in the midst of negotiations to find a compromising language on this issue that would mitigate some of the regulations’ impact.
Israel has argued that stringent clarifications with regard to the EU regulations are harmful to the peace process, which was renewed in July.
Israel has said that such a position by the EU unilaterally sets a border outside the context of negotiations.
“Everyone who is serious about the peace process knows that there will be changes to the 1967 lines. By doing this the EU will only encourage a maximalist position,” an Israeli official said.
The official criticized Abbas for comments he made to the media on Thursday in which he said that Palestinians who purchased products produced in settlements were traitors.
The official noted that Abbas was quick to speak out against settlements but hesitant to criticize Palestinians who killed Jews.
The PA president will also brief the leaders of the three EU countries on the outcome of the US-sponsored peace talks.
Abbas, according to another Palestinian official, will complain about ongoing construction in the settlements.
“The president will make it clear that Israel’s policy of continued settlement construction jeopardizes the peace talks and the two-state solution,” the official said. “He will stress that without real international pressure, Israel won’t halt settlement construction.”
Abbas heads to Europe amid reports that he is willing to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in what would be the first such meeting since September 2010.
The Prime Minister’s Office has not responded to the report.
But an Israeli official said that Netanyahu had often said “he is ready to meet Abbas anywhere, anytime. He has not placed preconditions on such a meeting.”
Netanyahu is expected to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when he speaks before the Knesset plenum on Monday. It is the first of three speeches he will deliver at the Knesset this week.
On Tuesday, he will speak at an event marking the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War and on Wednesday he will speak at a memorial event for slain former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.