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EU officials: further settlement-targeting measures in the pipeline

March 15, 2014 at 2:12 pm

EU officials have confirmed that further measures targeting Israeli settlements are prepared, with the timing of their implementation directly related to future settlement construction and the status of Kerry’s diplomatic initiative.

Speaking to MEMO in Brussels last week, officials in the European External Action Service (EEAS) were clear that the EU “will get serious if necessary” with regards to the labelling of settlement goods, as well as the issuing of guidance to businesses on settlement trade.

That latter measure, referred to as ‘common messages to business’, would be relatively easy to roll out as the text has already been approved. An official compared the content to the advice published by the UK government last year, which speaks of “clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements”, including “potential reputational implications”.

An official said it would be up to member states to decide when exactly to publish the common messages, taking into consideration the progress of peace talks, as well as Israeli construction in settlements. He confirmed this was related to comments last month by the EU Ambassador to Israel on there being a “price to pay” if negotiations falter. The official also described the messages for business as being the closest the EU has to the logic that informed a recent decision by Dutch pension fund PGGM to divest from five Israeli banks.

The EU is prepared for an angry Israeli response to further measures. Commenting on the controversy over the July 2013 publication of EU funding guidelines, officials said the Israeli response had been “surprising” and “blown out of proportion” – they “went nuclear”, said one official close to the process. Nevertheless, while stressing that the guidelines were confirming a pre-existing EU position, the official admitted that the funding guidelines had been a “precedent” in the sense that a “legal instrument” was now being used to defend policy.

An extended article on EU-Israel relations will be published on Wednesday.
Report by Ben White