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Posts

EU governments warn against doing deals with settlements in oPt

Two articles from Barak Ravid


Pre-fabricated homes for Jews are hastily installed in the illegal settlement of Yitzhar near the Palestinian city of Nablus. May 7th, 2014. Photo by Reuters

Spain, Italy warn citizens against doing business with settlements

Nations join France, U.K. and Germany in advising against legal and financial risks.

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz
June 27, 2014

The Spanish and Italian governments issued a warning to their citizens on Friday against doing business with Israeli settlements in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, and in the Golan Heights. The foreign ministries of both countries announced that companies engaging in economic activity in the settlements would be making themselves vulnerable to a series of risks.

According to the announcements made by Spain and Italy, the European Union and its member states do not recognize Israeli rule in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which were conquered in 1967, and regard the settlements as illegal in international law.

For this reason, the announcements stated, private companies doing business, transferring funds, investing money, signing contracts, buying land or receiving tourist services from companies in the settlements would be taking legal and financial risks.

“The current situation could lead to disputes over land, water, quarries or natural resources that were acquired or in which money was invested,” read the statement from the Spanish Foreign Ministry. “Companies must take into account that [financial activity in the settlements] is liable to lead to their involvement in breaking international law and violating human rights.”

Spanish Foreign Ministry officials told the Spanish news agency EFE that the warning was not a sanction or boycott of Israel — actions that the Spanish government opposes. They said that the warning was the implementation of a decision by the European Union and alignment with actions taken by Germany, France and the United Kingdom. “We have no intention of harming commerce or cooperation with Israel inside its internationally-recognized borders,” they said, referring to the 1967 lines.

Speaking at a seminar organized by the Geneva Initiative of Friday morning, EU envoy to Israel Lars Fabourg-Andersen said the warnings, which “should not come as a surprise,” point towards the fact that EU member states “are losing their patience with concerns not being treated” by Israel.

He added that the precise wording of European Commission’s general warning regarding private bodies’ economic activity in the settlements is still being hashed out.

“The EU is more consistently implementing existing policy, and taking further steps to disengage from the settlements,” said Andersen, adding that if settlement construction continues, additional EU member states will publish similar warnings.

EU institutions consider general warning

On Tuesday, the French government issued a similar warning, in which it warned against engaging in financial activity or investments in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and in the Golan Heights. A French diplomat said the warning was part of a joint act by the five largest countries in the European Union — Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain.

The United Kingdom and Germany issued such warnings several months ago, and now, in light of the failure of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians and the European protests over the recent wave of construction in the settlements, three more countries joined them.

The French warning and the coordination among the five largest countries in the European Union has taken place against the backdrop of discussions that have been held in recent weeks in EU institutions in Brussels about issuing a general warning of the European Commission to businesspeople throughout the EU not to engage in economic activity in the settlements.

The new warning from the French Foreign Ministry against financial activity in the settlements is non-binding. A French person who conducts financial activity in the settlements will not be breaking the law in France. But similar cases over the past year, similar warnings have led to an increase in boycotts by members of Europe’s private sector of the settlements and of Israeli businesses that operate in the settlements.


France warns citizens: Don’t invest in Israeli settlements, Golan Heights

France’s Foreign Ministry says West Bank settlements, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights are built on occupied land, which is illegal according to international law.

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz
June 25, 2014

The French government issued a warning to its citizens not to engage in financial activity or investments in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. The French Foreign Ministry wrote in its warning that the settlements are illegal according to international law, and so doing business with them involves legal risks.

A French diplomat said that the warning is part of a joint act by the five largest countries in the European Union — Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain. The United Kingdom and Germany issued such warnings several months ago, and now, in light of the failure of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians and the European protests over the recent wave of construction in the settlements, three more countries joined them. Italy and Spain are expected to publish similar warnings over the next several days.

The warning was published on the French Foreign Ministry’s website as part of a broader document of recommendations for French people traveling to Israel. “Due to the fact that the settlements are illegal in international law, the performance of financial activity in the settlements such as money transfers, investments, acquisition of property, provision of supplies or the performance of any other economic activities that benefit the settlements involves risks,” the statement read in French.

The announcement states that the settlements had been built on occupied land and that the international community did not recognize them as part of Israel. “This could lead to a high likelihood of land disputes or disagreements regarding water, quarries or other natural resources,” the statement read. “This involves risk to the image of those who carry out such economic activity… We call upon citizens or businesspeople who are considering becoming involved in economic activity in the settlements to seek appropriate legal advice before going ahead.”

The French warning and the coordination among the five largest countries in the European Union has taken place against the backdrop of discussions that have been held in recent weeks in EU institutions in Brussels about issuing a general warning of the European Commission to businesspeople throughout the EU not to engage in economic activity in the settlements.

A week ago, Israel’s Foreign Ministry told Israeli ambassadors throughout the EU to contact the foreign ministries of the countries where they were serving and ask that that warnings against conducting financial activity in the settlements not be issued to businesspeople.

One Israeli diplomat said that the ambassadors were asked to say that at the present time, particularly in light of the kidnapping of the three teenage boys in Gush Etzion, issuing such a warning could heighten tensions between Israel and European countries and cause real damage to relations.

But the French did not grant the Israeli ambassadors’ requests. Foreign Ministry officials believe that once the European Commission issues a similar statement, the EU will be flooded with a wave of warnings against financial activity in the settlements throughout all the European countries.

“Our assessment regarding the warnings is that a decision was made [in the European Commission] to publish them very soon,” read a telegram sent from an Israeli embassy in the EU institutions in Brussels to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. “This could happen from this coming Thursday to the next several weeks. Afterward, each country will decide how and when to issue the statement.”

The new warning from the French Foreign Ministry against financial activity in the settlements is non-binding. A French person who conducts financial activity in the settlements will not be breaking the law in France. But similar cases over the past year, similar warnings have led to an increase in boycotts by members of Europe’s private sector of the settlements and of Israeli businesses that operate in the settlements.

For example, after the Dutch government issued a similar warning to its citizens alongside recommendations that products from the settlements sold in supermarkets be marked, the largest water company in The Netherlands announced that it was canceling a contract with Mekorot. At the same time, another Dutch company canceled a contract with the Jerusalem municipality to build a sewage-treatment plant over the Green Line. Also, the largest pension fund in The Netherlands announced that it was divesting from several Israeli banks that operate over the Green Line.

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