EU Document Suggests Recalling Envoys if Israeli Settlements Threaten Two-state Solution

Two-page document includes two chapters of ‘sticks’ to be used against Israel, a chapter of ‘carrots’ for the Palestinians.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Avigdor Lieberman and the EU's Federica Mogherini during a joint press conference in Jerusalem, November 7, 2014. Credit: AFP
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

New details from the European Union’s “sanctions document,” first reported by Haaretz on Saturday, show that potential punishments for Israel could include the recalling of EU ambassadors if settlement construction is advanced in sensitive areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Diplomats familiar with the document’s contents told Haaretz that the two-page text includes two chapters of “sticks” to be used against Israel, and a chapter of “carrots” to offer the Palestinians.

European diplomats compared it to a “menu at a Chinese restaurant,” from which each member state could choose which sanctions to implement.

The document, written by Christian Berger, head of the European External Action Services' Middle East Department, expresses the principle that the European Union must respond with sanctions to actions by the Israeli government that threaten to make the two-state solution impossible.

Such Israeli actions would include, for example, construction in the E1 area between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, construction in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood or additional construction in Har Homa, both of which are Jerusalem neighborhoods over the Green Line. The European Union believes that construction in these areas would threaten the establishment of a Palestinian state and block Jerusalem from being the capital of both states.

The confidential document was circulated to representatives of the 28 EU member states, and is still in the discussion stage at the European Union's headquarters in Brussels. There has apparently been no agreement regarding its contents, nor have any high-level diplomatic decision been made on when or how to advance it.

The document’s first chapter discusses joint diplomatic steps that could be taken against Israel by the 28 states, including coordinated condemnations of the settlements; joint protests to the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office; and more sharply worded communiqués on the Israeli-Palestinian issue after the European Union's monthly foreign ministers’ meetings.

There is also a proposal to reconsider the European Union's commitment not to participate in debates at the UN Human Rights Council under Clause 7, which relates specifically to the state of human rights in the West Bank. Such debates generally end up as one-sided, Israel-bashing sessions. Under understandings reached last year, Israel agreed to resume cooperations with the council on condition that the European Union refused to participate in such debates.

The second chapter deals with bilateral relations with Israel and proposes moves like recalling ambassadors from Tel Aviv in response to Israeli moves that threaten the two-state solution. The document also includes proposals for actions against settlers, like banning maintaining relations or holding meetings with settler leaders or organizations that are clearly and officially linked to the settlements.

This section also proposes steps that would more clearly distinguish between Israel and the West Bank, such that the European Union would not recognize the authority of Israeli agencies beyond the Green Line.

The third chapter deals with the Palestinians, offering them mainly “carrots.” For example, the document suggests the European Union and its member states take steps toward “strengthening elements of Palestinian statehood.” This apparently means relating to Palestine as a state in practical terms, even without it being officially recognized as such. In doing so, the European Union would seek to persuade the Palestinians to stop pursuing unilateral efforts to achieve recognition as a state.

In response to the report in Haaretz on Sunday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said there was no reason to create a link between Israel's bilateral relations with the European Union and the state of its relations with the Palestinians.

“Any attempt to levy such conditions is erroneous and does not contribute to stability, normalization or the strengthening of ties between Israel and the Palestinians,” Lieberman said at a press conference held with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is currently visiting Israel.

The foreign minister stressed that Israel would never accept the definition of construction in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem as “settlement activity.”

“That is the widest consensus in Israel, agreed upon by Jews from the left, the right and the center, and I hope the European Union will take that into account,” Lieberman said. “Nobody would accept that construction in neighborhoods like Ramot, Gilo or East Talpiot is ‘settlement building.’ This does an injustice to reality, and we will not accept this.

“We will not accept any restrictions on building in Jewish communities in Jerusalem – there will be no compromise on the matter,” Lieberman insisted. “Those who think the government of Israel will surrender and restrict its construction in Jerusalem are wrong. We will guard our independence and our sovereignty.”

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