by Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
In the past few weeks, the governments of Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom issued directives warning citizens of risks involved for companies engaging in economic activity in Israeli West Bank settlements, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, including the possibility of violating international law and human rights.
These moves have been linked to the possibility of similar action being taken by the entire European Union. At a moment when Hamas has abused its unity arrangement with Fatah to resume firing rockets on Israeli civilians, and news has just been released that Hamas has viciously murdered the three Israeli teenagers it kidnapped eighteen days ago, the EU remains focused on Israeli settlements.
The EU’s bureaucratization of this policy points to settlements as the key issue in the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and the obstacle to a peace agreement.
In reality, the issue of settlements is but one of the numerous, contentious, emotional, issues which must be resolved through direct negotiations, along with the Palestinian demand for a “right of return”of refugees, the status of Jerusalem and final borders and security arrangements.
The new European directives stand in stark contrast to the realities on the ground in Israel and the region.
As has become typical of such statements, the warning focused solely on Israel, and made no mention of the Palestinian Authority-Hamas unity government which contributed to the collapse of recent peace talks. Furthermore, the warning’s suggestion that conducting business with private West Bank-based Israeli companies could violate human rights takes the European position on settlements to a new extreme.
Israel has a track record of dismantling settlements in the name of peace, including those in the Sinai as part of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, and has repeatedly offered to dismantle many West Bank settlements as part of a two state solution with the Palestinians.
If European governments wish to be seen as a constructive party in helping resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they must cease their unfair practice of solely focusing on Israel’s settlement activity, and hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for their own obstructionist actions, including directly affiliating with terrorist groups like Hamas.