Despite Israeli Objections, EU Officially Publishes New Settlement Guidelines

Guidelines state that any private Israeli entity that wants EU funding must show it has no links to West Bank, East Jerusalem or Golan; Israel rejects new guidelines, says EU should advance 'peace promoting measures.'

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The European Commission published its new guidelines barring EU agencies from funding entities connected to settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and residential areas in the Golan Heights on Friday afternoon.

The EC is the executive body of the European Union and is tasked with implementing EU decisions. The guidelines were published in the Official Journal of the European Union on Friday, despite Israel's attempts to pressure the EC and several prominent EU member states to delay publication.

Israel harshly condemned the EU's new guidelines. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, "It would have been preferable if the energy put in drafting these guidelines had been invested in peace promoting measures."

Palmor said that Israel rejects the attempt by the European Commission to "coerce positions on issues which belong at the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations table."

"Israel's borders will not be determined by European Commission guidelines but by negotiations between the concerned parties," Palmor said. "Israel doubts the political wisdom that lies beneath these measures, regarding both their content and their timing."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres contacted EC President José Manuel Barroso in recent days to ask him to postpone the guidelines' publication in the gazette. At Israel's request, United States Secretary of State John Kerry himself called Barroso and also requested that publication be postponed. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni called EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and asked Ashton as well to delay the guidelines' publication.

Nevertheless, Barroso and Ashton refused to push off the publication of the guidelines. They made clear to to the senior Israeli government officials that that guidelines would go into effect on January 1, 2014. Barroso and Ashton said that ahead of this date, the EC would be willing to consult and negotiate with Israel about the interpretation of the guidelines and the manner in which they would be implemented in future agreements with Israel.

The EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement Friday that publication of the guidelines is not intended in any way to undermine Kerry's efforts to jump start the peace process.

"In no way will this prejudge the outcome of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. It has been the EU's long held position that it will recognize changes made to the borders once agreed by both parties. 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. In this way, the EU hopes to further contribute to an atmosphere conducive to a meaningful and sustainable negotiation leading to a peace agreement between the parties."

Ashton said that the guidelines will go into effect on January 1, 2014, adding that the EU is ready to deliberate with Israel on the implementation of the guidelines, with an emphasis on the "territorial clause" on future agreements between the two sides that are currently on the table.

The Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the ambassadors of Britain and France and the deputy ambassador of Germany to discuss the new guidelinesThe ambassadors were told their governments must act to deflect a serious crisis between Israel and the European Union, a senior Foreign Ministry source said.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials also held telephone conversations with ambassadors of other EU states and conveyed the same message.

We told the European ambassadors to make it clear to their capitals that no Israeli government would accept the conditions posed in the new guidelines or sign such a clause, a senior ministry official said.

The European ambassadors were told that in a few weeks, talks between Israel and the Palestinians may resume, but instead of the EU helping to advance the peace talks, it will be immersed in a crisis with Israel, the official said. 

Catherine Ashton and Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: AP