The European Union has set itself on a collision course with Israel after drawing up a list of sanctions to be imposed if the country takes steps that would make the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible.
In what amounts to Europe’s toughest line yet with the Israeli government, punishments such as trade restrictions could be imposed if continued settlement-building on occupied land is deemed to be at odds with reaching a two-state solution — defined as an independent Palestine alongside Israel.
A catalogue of measures has been set out in a secret document prepared by the European External Action Service and distributed to the EU’s 28 member states. While diplomats are shying away from characterizing the measures as “sanctions,” the paper — the contents of which are said to be at the early discussion stage — advocates a “carrot and stick” approach to relations with Israel.
There is concern about settlement activity that would have a serious impact on a two-state solutionOfficials say the move towards punitive action has been driven by European concern over continued Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, on territory claimed by the Palestinians for a future state, despite the government’s supposed commitment to a two-state solution.
“We’ve been increasingly concerned at what we’ve been seeing,” one European diplomat said. “There doesn’t seem to be any possibility of advancement at the moment. There is concern about settlement activity that would have a serious impact on a two-state solution.”
Israeli “game changing” decisions would include building in a sensitive spot known as E1, between Jerusalem and the settlement of Maale Adumim, which Palestinians say would impair the contiguity of any future state.
European officials have been alarmed by a number of recent announcements, including the seizure of 1,000 acres of Palestinian land near the Gush Etzion settlement and a decision to press ahead with the expansion of Givat Hamatos, officially in Arab-dominated east Jerusalem, which would potentially block access to the city for Palestinians coming from the southern West Bank.
There has also been disquiet over the move by several hundred Jewish settlers to the Arab neighbourhood of Silwan in east Jerusalem.
The document is believed to suggest a range of options, including compulsory labelling on Israeli products made in West Bank settlements, limiting co-operation with Israel and even imposing restrictions on a free-trade agreement, according to the Haaretz newspaper.
The proposed penalties drew a robust response from Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, who said Israel’s relations with Europe should not be linked to its conflict with the Palestinians. He added: “One thing should be clear: We will never accept the definition of building in Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem as settlement activity. We won’t accept any limitation on building in Jewish areas of AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images