Israel blasts EU over settlements remark

Barak, Foreign Ministry reject EU official's claim that Europeans are paying for Israel's West Bank policy.

Cibran-Uzal 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cibran-Uzal 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Foreign Ministry Senior Deputy Director-General Rafi Barak called EU Ambassador Ramiro Cibrian Uzal on the carpet Tuesday for a statement an EU official released Monday saying settlements were strangling the Palestinian economy and, as a result, costing EU taxpayers money by fostering PA dependence on European aid. A Foreign Ministry statement issued after Barak called the EU envoy to the Foreign Ministry to register a complaint quoted Barak as "strongly rejecting" the political allegations made by the official about the impact of Israeli security measures, such as roadblocks and settlements, on the Palestinian economy. "Political statements of this nature clearly fall outside the mandate of the European Commission Technical Assistance Office in question, which is charged with a purely technical role in the channeling of assistance," Barak said. In addition, he said the statement made by the east Jerusalem-based official was unfounded and ignored "the fact that the issue of settlements has been agreed by the parties to be addressed in parallel with the fulfillment of other obligations - including Palestinian security obligations." Even more troubling, the statement said, was the "implication that Israeli security measures in the West Bank are unnecessary and even illegal, alongside a total failure to recognize that it is the continued activity of Palestinian terrorist groups that makes such measures an unfortunate necessity." The Foreign Ministry communiqué also said the EU official chose to ignore the recent improvements in the West Bank economy, with various economic data indicating that the West Bank economy grew between 5 and 7 percent in 2008. Ultimately, according to the Foreign Ministry statement, "a vibrant, stable economy will be achieved through the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the PA. In the meantime, the European technical assistant would do well to concentrate his efforts on the tasks for which he is responsible, instead of making unfounded accusations against Israel." The EU had no comment on the matter.