Israel fumes at EU settlement statement

EU envoy to Israel summoned over comment settlement policy strangles Palestinian economy.

Settlement building 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
Settlement building 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Furious at a European Union statement blaming the settlements for aid the EU gives the Palestinians, the Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the EU ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrián-Uzal, to register a protest. In a rare move, the senior deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry, Rafi Barak, called Cibrian-Uzal to the ministry in Jerusalem for an explanation. An AP story quoted the European Commission as saying that Israel's settlement policy helped strangle the Palestinian economy and made the Palestinian government more dependent on foreign aid. According to the statement, "it is the European taxpayers who pay most of the price of this dependence." According to the Commission, expropriation of fertile land for Israeli settlements, roads that serve settlers only and West Bank checkpoints helped constrain Palestinian economic growth and made the Palestinian government more dependent on aid. Diplomatic officials said the statement was issued neither in Brussels nor in Tel Aviv, but rather by the Commission's representatives in Jerusalem, who are mandated only to deal with aid issues, not to make political statements. Government sources said that the argument that the Jews were to blame for the Europeans having to give money to the Palestinians "borders on anti-Semitism." Government sources pointed out, moreover, that the Palestinian economy in the West Bank actually grew by some 5 percent in 2008. By contrast, the economy in Gaza, where there are no settlements, shrunk.