By refusing to drastically amend its settlement guidelines, EU reopens debate on occupation within Israeli elites

The EU’s new settlement guidelines, which were published last summer, put limits on loans to Israeli businesses operating beyond the Green Line and forbid EU financing of projects in settlements. Right-wing ministers are demanding that Israel reject the new terms, while centrists would like to avoid international isolation. 

By refusing to drastically amend its settlement guidelines, EU reopens debate on occupation within Israeli elites
File photo of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton with Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister is looking for a solution which will allow his government to continue cooperation with the EU while maintaining its freedom to settle the West Bank. (Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held two long cabinet meetings with senior ministers on Sunday regarding the difficulty in reaching an agreement with the EU over its new ‘settlement guidelines’ for joint projects with Israel, Israeli media reported. Netanyahu instructed Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to try and reach a deal that would end the impasse within the next couple of weeks – the deadline for entering the prestigious Horizon 2020 program, which could bring NIS 1.5 billion ($400 million) to Israel in the form of research and developments grants.

Last summer, the EU published a Commission Notice with new guidelines regarding projects in Israel. According to the guidelines, projects which are carried out in Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line will not be eligible for EU grants of prizes, and organizations which operate beyond the Green Line will not be eligible for EU loans and financial instruments. You can read the full guidelines here.

Israel rejected the guidelines, demanding that it receive the grants and loans on its own terms. Israeli ministers fear that the guidelines will serve as a precedent that would limit not only the government but also the private sector’s ability to conduct its business in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and in the Golan Hights. Officials have expressed fear that banks that provide settlers with subsidized mortgages or franchises that open branches in the settlements will suffer in the future. However, with the much-desired Horizon 2020 program coming up, Israel asked the EU to negotiate a “softer” version of the guidelines, one which would, in the words of an Israeli official, allow the government “to march with [the guidelines] but not feel them.”

Israel agreed not to use European money beyond the Green Line but asked that the provision regarding activities in the Occupied Territories not be included in agreements Israeli institutions are asked to sign, Haaretz reported. Israel also asked to introduce a new mechanism which will deal with loan requests, rather than an across-the-board commitment that prevents recipient organizations from operating in the OPT.

Israeli is also demanding that the EU state the guidelines will not prejudice or be binding in future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. According to the reports, the EU agreed to the last term, but rejected the others.

In the urgent meetings Prime Minister Netanyahu called yesterday conflicts arose between right-wing politicians like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his deputy, Ze’ev Elkin, who demanded to reject the guidelines, and Yesh Atid’s ministers Ya’akov Peri and education minister Shai Piron, who want to join the EU programs at any cost. Netanyahu, it seems, would like to have Israel join the Horizon 2020 program but also do as much as he can to maintain the government’s freedom to settle the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

A final note: When the guidelines were published by Barak Ravid on Haaretz, I wrote that after years of condemnations for Israel’s settlement activities, this was the day Europe finally got Israel’s attention. Ravid himself once told me that in terms of political and diplomatic effect, this might have been his most important exposé ever.

Despite the very modest effect the guidelines could actually have on the ground – one might say that all they are meant to do is allow the EU to continue its support for Israel while distancing itself from the settlements – the commission notice sent shockwaves through the political system. Only a couple of weeks before they were published, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett boasted that “the world doesn’t care” about the settlements. Now, for the first time in decades, a serious debate has started among local elites about what isolation the occupation could cause Israel. The centrist Yesh Atid party was forced to examine the implications of its own political pact with the settlers, and the heads of the universities will now think twice before extending their work beyond the Green Line.

This national conversation – long overdue – is more important than anything in the guidelines themselves.

Related:
Why the EU shouldn’t amend its new settlement guidelines
What’s in the new EU guidelines regarding activities beyond the Green Line?
The day Europe got Israel’s attention

11 responses to “Resource: Choosing annexation over development”

  1. itshak Gordine says:

    Review paid by the EU so trash

    • Ben says:

      This by you, is denialism of truly comic proportions. Of sublimely unintentional self-satirizing proportions.

      (In the psychology of human behavior, denialism is a person’s choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. Denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of a historical experience or event, when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality. -Wikipedia)

      And there is always this odd, Herr Sturmer video-style anti-Semitic smear clinging to these “paid by EU” slanders. And the right wing never tires of doing this. Are the hard core settlers ever capable of shame? I haven’t seen it.

      • itshak Gordine says:

        Bla blah: Like many Israelis, I am wary of studies and projects funded by Europe. Those who receive help from generally hostile entities have almost no public in Israel (Breaking the silence, BDS, etc.). Their “works” only serve to feed the speech of associations or people hostile to the State of Israel. But at least it occupies them .. Meanwhile we build everywhere in the Land of Israel.

        • Ben says:

          Note the absolute, pure disregard for whether the report is TRUE or not, in this as in any other report, it’s all about what can be gotten over on others.

          Note the absolute regard for whether the right wing public reads it or not, the degree to which the truth can be squelched or not, the absolute disdain for the truth.

          Note the equation of “hostility to Israel,” (aka “anti-Israel”) with any opposition to unrestrained settlements and their associated constant human rights violations.

          Note the “what can we get away with?” gangster mentality.

          One cannot argue with people like this, one has to bring principled state forces to bear on them from outside the cult. And this, by the EU is what Haley just loathes.

          At the same time that Halevy feels entitled to all sorts of massive EU subsidies and massive German funding for Israel’s defense and all sorts of things, he begrudges the EU sending school bake sale amounts to tiny shoe string human rights organizations or truth-telling newspapers and communities the Israeli behemoth treats with great brutality. And he ruthlessly smears the motives of the people doing it, even deploying anti-Semitic insinuations to do it.

          FYI, the person I am replying to here lives as a settler in the West Bank. He types his replies to me from a settlement in the West Bank. And yet he, like the Judge on the Israeli High Court (Noam Sohlberg) who is also a West Bank Settler, poses as some kind of neutral arbiter, some kind of unbiased arbiter, of what constitutes “hostility.” You can’t make this stuff up.

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Ben:
            The EU is a joke and it is slowly coming apart.
            Most EU reports are nothing more than waffly irrelevant rubbish.
            Judea and Samaria will stay Israeli long after the EU is a forgotten memory.

          • Ben says:

            The Report, and Shenhav-Goldberg’s account of it, are anything but waffly and irrelevant. Remember, denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of a historical experience or event, when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality.

          • itshak Gordine says:

            If you are not happy with Israeli politics, come to Israel, become a citizen and get into politics. Otherwise your abundant verbiage is useless. You are bleating in the desert.

          • Ben says:

            This is amusing coming from a settler who does not actually live in Israel but in illegally occupied territories outside Israel. Yet is accorded the right to vote inside Israel while people living for generations a half-kilometer down the road from him are not. Simply based on ethnicity. A settler who eagerly practices a form of apartheid. But this same settler living outside Israel gets steamed about anyone else from outside Israel having a say about it.

            As I said above, this is the mentality of gangsters everywhere. “Leave us alone, what business is it of yours, everything is fine here, we can handle it, this is ‘our thing.'”

          • Lewis from Afula says:

            Those people livimg half a km down the road NEED TO GO HOME.
            Their reletives in Amman are waiting for them !

          • Itshak Gordine says:

            You are definitely losing your nerves. someone who may never have set foot in Israel who allows himself to make false accusations. We are hundreds of thousands of Jews in Judea and Samaria. We have made it a developed, green region, with a high quality of life and a very high birth rate, with the blessing of the US government and most of the Jews around the world who are sending us their youth.

          • Ben says:

            Oh, I’ve set foot not just in Israel, I’ve set foot outside Israel, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Why don’t you tell me what settlement you’re sending these bouquets of propaganda from, settler, and I’ll tell you if I’ve been in your settlement. Or outpost.

            Is that you swimming in the Anar Springs here?
            https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-this-place-is-only-for-jews-the-west-bank-s-apartheid-springs-1.7767344

            It’s ridiculous to be having tit for tats here with brutal hard core ideological settlers spouting sugar-coated propaganda lies in the forum of a Magazine meant for much more intelligent purposes.