Publication of EU anti-settlement guidelines upsets Israel

EU foreign policy chief Ashton says guidelines were not meant to prejudice the outcome of peace talks.

EU building 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
EU building 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler)
Israel accused the European Union of attempting to prejudice the outcome of Israeli- Palestinian negotiations, in response to the European Commission’s posting Friday of guidelines against awarding grants, prizes and funding to Israeli entities over the pre-1967 lines.
“Israel rejects the attempt by the European Commission to coerce positions on issues, which belong at the Israeli- Palestinian negotiations table,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
“Israel’s borders will not be determined by European Commission guidelines but by negotiations between the concerned parties,” he continued, adding that “it would have been preferable if the energy put into drafting these guidelines had been invested in peace-promoting measures.”
The guidelines were published hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry announced the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Former deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon wrote in a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday that the EU’s position on West Bank settlements does not give the Palestinians any incentive to negotiate a final status agreement for a two-state solution.
“Such a step will harden the position of the Palestinians, who will lose any reason to negotiate. This in turn will stifle any flexibility that Israel may have thought to offer, thus alienating prospects for peace,” Ayalon explained.
But European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Friday that the guidelines were not meant to “prejudge the outcome of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”
“The EU is deeply committed to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and fully supports Secretary Kerry’s intense efforts to restart negotiations at a particularly delicate stage,” Ashton said.
The EU has said it would recognize the final borders of a two-state solution that are jointly agreed upon by Israel and the Palestinians, Ashton said, adding that its position on territory over the pre- 1967 lines had not changed.
“Today the EU published a document that reiterates the long-held position that bilateral agreements with Israel do not cover the territory that came under Israel’s administration in June 1967.”
She said this was done now to clarify the EU position before negotiations with Israel over financial agreements that will commence in 2014.
The guidelines follow a December 10, 2012, EU decision to include language in any future agreement with Israel that clarifies that areas outside of the pre-1967 lines are not part of Israel.
EU agreements with Israel prior to December 2012 did not clarify this point, even though it was tacitly understood that they do not include territory beyond the pre-1967 lines.
On Friday, Ashton said that the new guidelines on prizes, grants and funding would not be implemented before January 1.
“In the meanwhile, the EU looks forward to working and consulting with Israel on a broad range of bilateral issues, and has invited Israel to hold discussions on the territorial scope of agreements with the EU that are currently under preparation,” Ashton said.
In essence, these discussions would involve the two sides trying to hash out language on the “territorial clause” that both sides can live with.
The guidelines do not spell out exactly what the so-called “territorial clause” on future agreements will say.
For instance, in the recently signed Open Skies aviation agreement, the territorial clause reads: “The application of this agreement is understood to be without prejudice to the status of the territories that came under Israel’s administration after June 1967.”
A senior diplomatic official said this was language Israel could live with. However, he added, an example of language Jerusalem would not agree to was the draft of the next stage of the Euro-Med Youth Program, which read: “This agreement will be implemented in conformity with the European Union’s position that the territories that came under Israel’s administration in June 1967 are not part of the territory of Israel.”Herb Keinon contributed to this report.