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EU is looking for new ways to stop Israeli settlements

October 15, 2014 at 12:54 pm

EU officials are looking for new ways to put pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities to stop all settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday.

European diplomats explained that their frustration over West Bank settlement construction has reached a new high, and they are now discussing measures like “blacklisting” Jewish settlers convicted of crimes and banning them from entering EU countries.

They also said that the EU could review mutual trade agreements, but stressed that they are not yet considering imposing any trade sanctions.

“The paperwork [regarding a blacklist] has been done but it is frozen for now,” one EU official told Reuters. “It is basically a blacklist of violent settlers who have been accused of or convicted of crimes. It would prevent them from travelling to Europe.”

The diplomat added that: “Such a step would probably only affect 100 to 200 people, and it might prove complicated to impose since some of those likely to be blacklisted also have European passports, but it would send a strong message that the EU means business.”

The Israeli occupation authorities recently carried out a series of illegal measures, including the seizure of 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres) of Palestinian land near the town of Bethlehem and the announcement of plans to build thousands of settlement units near occupied Jerusalem.

These measures have reportedly angered the EU, US and UN, fuelling calls for a response.

Two years ago, the EU imposed restrictions on loans to Israeli scientific institutions that operate in the West Bank settlements and is currently moving ahead with plans to label all products that are made in these settlements.

EU diplomats warn that public sentiment in Europe is turning strongly against Israel, especially in response to Israel’s wars in the Gaza Strip, including the recent 51-day campaign that ended on 26 August and killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

This change is clear in Sweden’s plan to recognise Palestine as an independent state this month and a non-binding vote in the British parliament on the same issue on Monday.

Many of the EU’s 28 member states have expressed concerns about Israeli settlement policies, but it is still far from certain that there would be unanimous support for any action against Israel, which still has strong defenders among many EU governments.

European diplomats and other officials told Reuters that there are several areas where the EU could bring pressure to bear on Israel, for example by strictly applying the regulations detailed in the Association Agreement signed between the EU and Israel in 1995.

That agreement sets out a very specific framework for free trade in goods, services and capital, with everything dependent on “respect for human rights and democratic principles”.

Article 83 of the agreement makes clear that it only applies to the territory of the state of Israel, which one official said raised questions about how you deal, for example, with Israeli banks which operate on occupied land that the EU does not consider to be part of the state of Israel.

“I am not saying we should stop dealing with Israeli banks, but it is an issue that has been raised and some would say we need to look at it in more detail,” an ambassador reported saying by Reuters.