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Thursday, 10 September 2015

The European Parliament backs down on total Israeli settlement products ban

STRASBOURG (EJP)---The European Parliament refrained from calling for a total EU ban of products from Israeli settlements,in a resolution on EU’s role in the Middle East process to be voted Thursday in Strasbourg.
In the final resolution supported by the main political groups after negotiations on a draft, the parliament also acknowledged that the conflictin Syria, the rise of Daesh, increasing radicalism and the spread of terrorism in the Middle East ‘’create significant security threats for Israel.’’
Early drafts of the resolution – initiated by the Socialist group- referred to Israel as an “occupying power”, called the Gaza blockade “collective punishment” and called for a ban on settlement products.
The adoption of the resolution comes after the European Parliament debated the Mideast peace process following an address on Wednesday by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in which she spoke of the EU’s efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinians talks.
In the resolution, the European Parliament encouraged Mogherini ‘’to take the lead in the European Commission to work on EU-wide guidelines on te labelling of Israeli settlement products.’’
The issue,although not new, came again to the news after Mogherini said last weekend that the EU was close to finalizing guidelines for labeling products coming from Israeli settlements, a move Israel considers as ‘’discriminatory’’ and leading to a form of boycott.
In her address, Mogherini said that the EU has now a "full time" special representative, based in Jerusalem, who is working on efforts to "reopen a political perspective" between Israel and the Palestinians. She added however that a "fundamental change of economic situation" will be essential to negotiations between two sides.
She stressed that the success of the recent nuclear deal with Iran -which was alsodebated in Strasbourg– ‘’shows that with "creative diplomacy" and "openness to compromise" even the most difficult of situations can be overcome.’’
In the resolution, to be adopted on Thursday, the EU parliament expresses concern about the persisting stalemate in the Middle East Peace Processand calls for the resumption of credible peace efforts ‘’without delay.’’
MEPs reiterate the EU’s strong support for the two-state solution ‘’on the basis of the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps and Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security and mutual recognition, on the basis of the right of self-determination and full respect of international law.’’
The European Parliament said it ‘’looks forward to the launching of the EU's structured dialogue with Israel on the situation in the West Bank and the preservation of the two-state solution, which should cover also the issue of settlements.’’ µ
The resolution condemns the ‘’continued expansion of Israeli settlements, which violates international humanitarian law, fuels Palestinian resentment, and undermines the viability and prospects of the two-state solution, and calls on the Israeli authorities to immediately halt and reverse their settlement policy.’’
MEPs call on both Israelis and Palestinians ‘’to avoid steps which could spark further escalation, including hate speech and incitement in the public arena as well as unilateral measures which could prejudge the outcome of negotiations and threaten the viability of the two-state solution.’’
MEPs stress the responsibility of relevant EU authorities in continuing to ensure that no EU funding can be directly or indirectly diverted to terrorist organisations or activities.
‘’The European Parliament stresses the imperative for the EU to work in partnership with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan towards preventing the re-arming of terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, and their smuggling of weapons, manufacturing of rockets, and the building of tunnels.’’
The parliamentreiterates its call for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip but welcomes the recent steps taken by Israel to ease restrictions on Gaza.
Intra-Palestinian reconciliation is an important element for reaching the two-state solution, the resolution says. It ‘’supports the EU's call on the Palestinian factions to make reconciliation and the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip a top priority.’’
It urges Palestinian forces ‘’to resume efforts towards reconciliation without delay, notably through the holding of the long overdue presidential and legislative elections; underlines that the PA must take greater responsibility in this regard and assume its government function in Gaza, including in the field of security, civil administration, and through its presence at the crossing points.’’
Commenting on the text of the resolution, Alex Benjamin, director of Europe Israel Public Affairs, a Brussels based pro-Israel advocacy organisation, which along with the Israeli Mission to the EU and other pro-Israel organisations, ensured a more balanced parliamentary position, declared : “The EU is eager to see a resumption of peace process negotiations. We managed to convince the main key actors involved that using inflammatory rhetoric and effectively sanctioning Israel would do little to encourage the Israeli government to engage with the European Union, much less regard them as an honest broker.’’ ‘’ The EU has stepped back from counter-productive and punitive actions,’’ he noted.

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