Europe Must Not Back Down From Labeling West Bank Settlement Products

The time may soon come when the EU must decide whether financing the Palestinian Authority effectively enables Israel's diplomatic rejectionism.

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EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbass in Ramallah, May 20, 2015.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbass in Ramallah, May 20, 2015.Credit: AP

The most important statement about the European Union’s potential decision to label settlement products was actually made by Dani Dayan, a former leader of the Yesha Council of settlements who still works to promote the settlement enterprise in the occupied territories. In a conversation with Nir Baram, Dayan related that a U.S. State Department official once told him, “For years we perceived you as agents of Israeli government policy, but suddenly we realized that you are the autonomous one and the Israeli government is the agent of your policy.”

Indeed, the settlement enterprise has succeeded in taking over Israeli politics. Dayan also explained why he isn’t worried about an EU boycott on settlement products: It “won’t make much difference – because the settlement enterprise is not based on industrial zones, but on the number of inhabitants. And that number is rising all the time. Bear in mind: when all is said and done, that is the only consistent trend.”

Anyone who thinks the settlement enterprise is illegitimate and causing Israel to lose its own legitimacy must be pleased that Israel was compelled to accept a committee under the auspices of FIFA (the world soccer federation), which, among other things, will discuss the question of whether soccer teams from the settlements can legitimately play in Israeli leagues.

The EU’s plan to publish guidelines for labeling settlement products should also be viewed favorably. Any international move that makes it clear to Israel that this “consistent trend” of growth in the number of settlers is destructive to Israel itself bolsters the chance that, someday, Israel will also have a government that understands this.

The EU must not back down. It has considerable power, because it helps finance the Palestinian Authority through its donations. And the time may soon come when it has to decide whether this financing effectively enables Israel’s diplomatic rejectionism.

It’s convenient for the right to claim that the pressure to boycott Israel stems from anti-Semitism rather than opposition to its insistence on continuing the settlement enterprise and its refusal to make progress, in good faith, on an agreement with the Palestinians. But this is a fundamentally false claim that is meant to mobilize Israelis to defend the settlements. It’s true that one goal of the BDS movement is to return the Palestinian refugees to Israel. But it’s also clear that this isn’t the goal of serious players worldwide that are beginning to lose patience with the Israeli delusion: on the one hand, its desire to belong to the world’s advanced democracies; on the other, its insistence on keeping the Palestinians under an apartheid regime.

The response by opposition leaders was especially disappointing. Instead of claiming there’s no left and right when it comes to boycotts, divestment and sanctions, opposition leaders Isaac Herzog, Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid should have explained to the public that the prime minister’s policy, throughout his years in office, is what has turned many people worldwide against Israel, and that this policy is leading Israel itself to disaster.

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