Ma'aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank.
Palestinian workers help construct a new housing development at Ma'aleh Adumim, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank, on Wednesday, Dec.16, 2009. Photo by Bloomberg
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The winds of international boycott of the settlements are quickening, picking up. On Friday the Spanish and Italian governments warned citizens against conducting business with settlements in the Golan Heights, the West Bank or East Jerusalem, saying such activity could expose them to a number of legal and financial risks. France, Germany and Britain had previously issued similar warnings to their nationals.

The individual warnings by these five countries may soon become an all-European resolution. European Union institutions are considering the issue of a general warning on behalf of all 28 EU member states, and the statements by the five nations will presumably expedite these discussions. It was no coincidence that the EU envoy to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Anderson, said on Friday that the warnings indicate that EU member states “are losing their patience with concerns not being treated” by Israel.

For now, Europe is taking only small, measured steps. While the European Council last week took a firm stance last week in banning the import of goods from Crimea and the occupied city of Sevastopol, EU institutions have thus far made do with warnings only regarding the Israeli settlements. But the message is clear in the winds from Europe, and Israel cannot afford to ignore it. A European boycott of all economic activity originating would be a blow to the Israeli economy, nearly all of which is invested in the settlement enterprise, whether directly or indirectly.

The world is indeed beginning to lose its patience, as the EU envoy said. The status quo in the territories, which already has characteristics of an apartheid regime, is intolerable to the Europeans, who will not stand by indefinitely. After the last attempt to revive the peace talks, the collapse of which was largely due to Israel, friendly nations including Europe and the United States will be forced to take concrete measures against an intransigent Israel. In the 21st century, the world will not accept another 47 years of occupation, dispossession and widespread violation of the rights of an entire people.

The warning by these five states to their citizens should, therefore, become an even stronger warning to Israel’s government: If it does not hasten to take concrete steps toward ending the occupation, all Israelis will pay the price, and it could be high indeed.