New research has shown that illegal Israeli settlements continue to benefit from bilateral agreements with the European Union (EU) and its member states.
The project from the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and its policy fellow Hugh Lovatt – named the "Differentiation Tracker" – "traces the efforts undertaken by European governments since the beginning of the occupation to exclude Israeli settlements" from bilateral agreements.
According to the think-tank, "despite noticeable progress in advancing differentiation measures at the level of EU relations, member state practices have often lagged behind."
"As a result," the ECFR states, "there is a clear risk that European states are directly supporting the maintenance and growth of Israeli settlements, their residents, and businesses – in contravention of European policy positions and international law."
The Differentiation Tracker analyses more than 260 bilateral agreements with Israel signed by the EU, the EU's 28 member states, and Norway, agreements covering several dozen subjects, including agriculture, cultural exchanges, data protection, economic cooperation, financial investments, research and development projects, social security and taxation agreements and tourism.
The evidence provided by the searchable database "reveals that Israeli settlements continue to benefit from a wide-range of bilateral relations with the EU and European states," says ECFR.
"Amid the failure of international efforts to curtail Israel's policy of settlement and annexation of occupied territory, a fuller and more diligent implementation of legally necessitated differentiation measures remains one of the few effective means of defending the territorial footprint for a two state solution," stated ECFR's Policy Fellow Hugh Lovatt.
"In order to comply with UNSCR 2334, bilateral agreement signed with Israel should contain a 'differentiation' clause defining the territorial scope of an agreement's application to within Israel's pre-June 1967 borders (the 'Green Line'). Correcting pre-existing agreements that have fallen short of such a requirement is undoubtedly more laborious but just as important."
Of the 268 European agreements reviewed by ECFR, at least 158 were signed "without any territorial definition defining their scope of implementation", while a further 65 agreements "contain either vague or ambiguous clauses".
Meanwhile, a further problem highlighted by the think-tank is that "national governments have also done very little to enforce the European Commission labelling guidelines for settlement products."