The European Union recently issued a directive stipulating that agreements between Israel and EU member countries will not apply beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders.
According to Barak Ravid’s report Tuesday, the EU guideline, binding on all of its 28 member states, bars any funding or cooperation with Israeli entities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The order also requires that any future agreements signed with Israel include a provision stating that the settlements are not part of the State of Israel and therefore are not subject to these agreements.
The sanctions imposed directly on the settlements and indirectly on the State of Israel have thus been ratcheted up a notch. A senior official in Jerusalem characterized the new EU directive as “an earthquake.” The guideline has reportedly generated tension and concern in both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry.
The report of this latest development comes just days after Yossi Verter reported that major European banks recently considered a recommendation to cease providing loans to any financial entity in Israel with direct or indirect links to the settlements. That recommendation has been put on hold for the time being, but it, too, has engendered concern.
And Justice Minister Tzipi Livni recently warned that Europe might not be satisfied with a boycott of the settlements; boycotts could be extended to include all of Israel proper. These developments reflect a new international reality that is rapidly taking shape. For now, for the most part, they are still merely warnings − but ones that Israel cannot ignore.
Until now, European governments have striven to maintain good relations with Israel despite the impasse in peace negotiations and construction in the settlements − sometimes to the chagrin of growing segments of the population in their own countries. The United States’ position and the legacy of European history have prevented harsher measures. Now, however, it appears that the patience of European governments is about to be exhausted.
In the immediate future, Israel will have to decide if it is prepared to sign agreements containing the new territorial limitations, which will have to be included in accords with all EU member states. If not, the European Union, which is the largest market for Israeli exports, is liable to halt its cooperation with Israel.
Israel can persist in its recalcitrance. The government can continue to impose more and more conditions on an agreement with the Palestinians. But the moment of truth is quickly approaching. Israel’s government needs to decide if it is ready to continue to endanger the country’s future for the sake of continuing the occupation.