EU Envoy Urges Israel to Focus on Peace Gain, Not Boycott Threat

The European Union’s ambassador to Israel has some advice for his hosts: stop hyping the threat of economic sanctions if peace talks with the Palestinians fail and focus instead on the possible benefits if they succeed.

There’s no basis to talk of a major economic rupture with the EU over Israel’s settlement of lands Palestinians seek for a state, Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Anderson says.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid and other Israeli officials have warned that an anti-settlement boycott campaign that has scored some small successes is liable to snowball dangerously if U.S.-sponsored talks with the Palestinians don’t produce a peace deal. Talk of the EU revoking its preferential trade ties with Israel is “on the table” in Brussels, Lapid cautioned.

“There’s absolutely nothing to that, no discussions, plans or anything about abrogating our Association Agreement with Israel,” Faaborg-Anderson said in an interview this week at his Ramat Gan office near Tel Aviv. “There is a spin in this debate that is getting further and further away from the truth, and we are quite frankly stunned and amazed.”

The EU, he said, is offering both Israel and the Palestinians a “special privileged partnership” that would strengthen their economic ties with the bloc if they reach a final peace deal. It may also “possibly help with the huge bill” that such an agreement would entail, he said.

That aid offer is “a very, very strong signal of a political commitment to strengthen relations with Israel,” he said. “This is not something we are trying to do to bribe anyone to do something that would not be in their interest.”

The EU is Israel’s biggest trading partner, accounting for a third of its exports and totaling about 30 billion euros ($41 billion) annually in total trade. It is also a major champion of the Palestinian campaign to establish a state incorporating the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in 1967 where more than half a million Israelis now live.

To contact the reporter on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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