Diplomacy & defense

Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem -- such as Har Homa which was originally built in the 1990s -- are considered to be in breach of the Oslo accords by the Palestinians but not by Israel, which does not see east Jerusalem as occupied territory
Netanyahu: 'This is unjust. It is simply a distortion of justice and of logic...it does not advance peace'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday likened the EU parliament's motion to label products from Jewish settlements to the Nazi era.

"We remember history and we remember what happened when the products of Jews were labelled in Europe," the premier said in a statement issued by his office.

In April, France and 15 other European Union countries urged the bloc to clearly label products sold in member countries that originated in Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories and annexed east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, all occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.

"This is unjust. It's a distortion of justice and of logic, not to mention that it does not advance peace," said Netanyahu.

Tzipi Hotovly, Israel's deputy foreign minister, said the Jewish state would not accept "discrimination" between goods produced in different parts of its territory.

"Labelling of products amounts to a boycott," she said, hours after the European parliament voted in favor of a non-binding resolution to label products from Jewish settlements.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that the EU motion was "discriminatory with a sharp smell of boycott," adding that "under the guise of a technical procedure, this is an attempt to force a diplomatic solution instead of encouraging the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table."

"Europe treats Israel with sanctimonious hypocrisy, while it doesn’t raise the issue of similar solutions in Northern Cyprus and Western Sahara."

The EU has consistently condemned Israeli settlement building as a threat to the Middle East peace process through eroding the basis for a future Palestinian state.

Frederick Florin (AFP)The resolution, which passed by 525 votes to 70, calls on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini “to take the lead within the Commission with a view to completing the work on EU-wide guidelines on the labeling of Israeli settlement produce.”

European parliamentarians also called on Mogherini and EU Special Representative Fernando Gentilini to make better use of member states' political and institutional expertise in order to achieve lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.

Preserving the viability of the two-state solution must be an immediate priority for the EU and the international community, the resolution states.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in April 2014, and few efforts have been made publicly to restart negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Thursday that he was willing to "immediately" resume negotiations with the Palestinians, "with no conditions whatsoever".

He also indicated he wanted increased cooperation with Britain on cyber-security, adding, "if we pull our resources together we can offer a better future and great prosperity."

The resolution also added that parliamentarians want to see an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, and its urgent reconstruction following the summer 2014 war and urged the EU and other donors to live up to their promises to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which has been under serious financial stress.

The vice-chair of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, Victor Boştinaru, said, "no EU funding can be used to directly or indirectly contribute to Israeli settlement construction, which is illegal under international law, or to Israeli activities violating international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestine Territory, while no EU funding to Palestinians can be directly or indirectly diverted to terrorist organizations or activities."

"Arab citizens of Israel have huge potential to play an important role in the peace process, with the joint Arab list as an important actor in the Knesset."

"The growing violence in the whole region generates new security challenges for Israel and further increase the suffering of Palestinians. It also creates shared interests between the Arab states and Israel."

The European Parliament's European United Left/Nordic Green Left group, meanwhile, criticized the resolution saying it"wanted a stronger-worded resolution. For example, we wanted to demand an end to the occupation of Palestine and the release of political prisoners."

"However, one thing on which I think we are all agreed is that the EU should be a dominant political player in the Middle East peace process and advance meaningful initiatives for a comprehensive solution," the chair of the Parliament's delegation to Palestine, Martina Anderson, said.

"We also believe Palestine should be placed under international protection."

The resolution called for the EU Border Assistance Mission to be reactivated "with a more ambitious mandate and adequate means" to play a concrete role in the controlling of the Gaza Strip's borders with both Egypt and Israel.

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