Diplomacy & defense
The European Union finalized its resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Israeli settlements Monday, in which the bloc reiterated its existing policy concerning products produced in Israeli settlements and agreements between member states and Israel.
The resolution confirms that the EU considers Israel's borders to end at the 1967 Green Line, and that therefore any arrangements made between Israel and member countries will not apply to settlements.
"The EU and its Member States are committed to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlements products," the resolution reads. adding that "the EU expresses its commitment to ensure that - in line with international law - 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 EU stressed that "this does not constitute a boycott of Israel which the EU strongly opposes."
Both Israeli and European officials acknowledged that it was not a new policy but a confirmation of existing policy.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu together with the Israeli Foreign Ministry worked on a last minute push ahead of Monday's meeting of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council, to halt the first draft of the resolution which would have broadened the distinction between Israel and the territories, and applied it to bilateral agreements between Israel and each of the 28 member states.
According to a senior official in Jerusalem, Netanyahu spoke to officials in Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic, asking them to oppose the first version of the draft resolution, saying the text was unbalanced and biased against Israel. The push was successful as the clause was removed from the final version.
"Our intense diplomatic work prevented wording applying to each member state," said an Israeli official.
In response to the resolution, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement in which it said that "following intense diplomatic effort by the PM and the foreign ministry, the EU softened its resolution. However the EU continues to treat Israel with a double standard, while totally ignoring the Palestinian Authority's responsibility to the stalemate and to incitement which feeds Palestinian terror."
"Out of 200 territorial conflicts in the world, the EU singles out and discriminates against Israel. this approach prevents the EU from playing a fair role in settling the conflict," it continued.
Leader of the opposition and head of the Zionist Union party, Isaac Herzog, said that "it is unfortunate that the EU is helping BDS. That is the meaning of the decision they made tonight. They are not differentiating the legitimate settlement blocs and isolate settlements and that is wrong," adding that "the sad thing is that Netanyahu's failed foreign policy has contributed to that, angering European countries.
Relations have been strained between Israel and the EU following the bloc's publishing of guidelines on the labeling of products from Jewish settlements last November. Following the EU decision, Israel suspended a number of dialogue meetings with European officials, mainly regarding Palestinian projects and EU projects in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank.
The EU has held for many years that a final agreement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be based on a two-state solution, and that Israeli settlements are illegal and undermine peace efforts.
In the resolution, the 28-nation bloc also restated its commitment to a two-state solution and said it would closely monitor developments on the ground which undermine that outcome.
The statement expressed the EU's deep concern at continuing violence, holding both sides to account for their actions.
"The EU firmly condemns the terror attacks and violence from all sides and in any circumstances, including the death of children," it said.
Tal Shalev is the diplomatic correspondent at i24news.