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EU guidelines on settlements rankle Israel

July 17, 2013|By Edmund Sanders
  • A Palestinian man walks outside his family's home, which consists of tents and shacks, near the Jewish settlement of Karmel in the West Bank.
A Palestinian man walks outside his family's home, which consists… (ABED AL HASHLAMOUN / EPA )

JERUSALEM – The European Union's tightened guidelines restricting member nations from providing funds, grants, scholarships, financing or other assistance to Jewish settlements in the West Bank, have drawn sharp criticism from Israeli officials.

Though the EU has long restricted such activity, the new guidelines – expected to be formally issued Friday – require that the practice be more explicitly stated in writing whenever assistance is provided to Israel.

“All agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967,’’ the guidelines state.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the EU’s Israel office said, “The guidelines are also in conformity with the EU's longstanding position that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.”

The move is largely symbolic since the EU already spends almost nothing on Jewish settlements on land seized by Israel in the 1967 war, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

But it was another sign of growing frustration in the international community with Israel's expansion of housing developments on land Palestinians want to use for their state.

Israeli officials criticized the EU announcement, saying it will embolden Palestinians to continue to boycott peace talks and create difficulties in EU-Israeli relations.

“This is a very significant and worrying move,’’ said Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin. “Certainly this will make it more difficult for us to negotiate joint agreements with Europe.”

Finance Minister Yair Lapid said the move shows the need for Israel to make progress on peace talks.

“The latest decision is part of a long line of decisions causing Israel’s isolation,’’ he said. “Time is not in our favor and every day that Israel is not engaged in peace negotiations is another day its international standing suffers further."

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edmund.sanders@latimes.com

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