International American Council

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Middle East and North Africa

EU bans some dealings with Israeli occupied territories

This week, the European Union issued a ban for the organization’s subsidiaries on financing or cooperating with Israeli institutions in the territory Israel seized in the 1967 Six-Day War.

At the end of the Six-Day War, Israel gained control of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Today, Israel still occupies and claims control over parts of all of these territories but the Sinai Peninsula, which was returned to Egypt in 1979 after the Camp David Accords.

Although the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights are widely recognized by many states and entities as having been under the governance of the Palestinian National Authority since the 1993 Oslo Accords, the administration of Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has condoned the settlement of the West Bank by Israelis, and has not relinquished control of the Gaza Strip’s airspace and coastline to P.N.A. president Mahmoud Abbas. Thus, the territorial extent of these bans is significant.

Also significant are the potential financial and social repercussions of the edict. After all, the E.U. is the largest trading partner for Israel, importing and exporting $40 billion in goods and services last year.

The main practical implication of the edict is that for Israeli groups that wish to receive grants or prizes from E.U.-operated or owned institutions or foundations, those within the occupied territories—or, as the guidelines said, outside of the “pre-1967 borders”—will be ineligible. It does not apply to human rights organizations, to Israeli government ministries or agencies, or to private individuals.

These bans will not go into effect until next year, and will affect only the E.U. as a conglomerate, without disrupting the ability of the E.U.’s individual member states to deal with the Israeli occupied territories (although the member states are recommended to proceed with the bans along with the E.U. as a whole). Nevertheless, many officials and ordinary people in Israel feel that they are being unfairly singled out for censure. Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel commented that the E.U.’s gambit was “reminiscent of boycotts of the Jews in Europe over 66 years ago.”

Other Israelis are less quick to condemn the bans as racist or prejudiced, but rather worry that, now that the P.N.A. has seen that it can get what it wants without coming to the negotiating table, they will have less desire to do so, as one anonymous Israeli minister said to the New York Times. American secretary of state John Kerry has sought to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations this year, and prior to these bans the E.U. seemed to be quietly and unobtrusively cooperative and supportive of the process. 

However, European Council for Foreign Relations analyst Daniel Levy believes these bans show that the E.U. does have an agenda when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian peace, and they will open the door for the E.U. to more strongly express its disapproval of Israel’s actions if United States-led talks fall through.

By Laura Gates 

Source: The New York Times, Haaretz

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