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European Parliament Head Downplays Israel Boycott Fears

Feb. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Economic boycotts of Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians aren’t on the European Union agenda, European Parliament President Martin Schultz said, downplaying Israel’s concerns.

Still, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Schultz today for suggesting Israelis take four times as much water as Palestinians from the same sources. Several lawmakers walked out in protest during Schultz’s speech to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

Schultz “suffers from the same selective listening as many Europeans,” Netanyahu said, addressing the Knesset hours after Schultz spoke. He said the European leader’s percentages were incorrect and the true figures are “significantly smaller.”

The conflict arose a day after Schultz said European lawmakers would not enact sanctions against Israeli imports that have been proposed by opponents of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“There is no boycott,” Schultz said yesterday after receiving an honorary doctorate from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. While there is debate within the parliament over whether goods produced in settlements should have the same preferential access to EU markets as goods produced in Israel do, “in the European Parliament there is for sure not a majority for a potential boycott,” he said.

Some Israeli officials, including Finance Minister Yair Lapid, expressed concern after several European companies and institutions cut ties in recent months with Israeli companies that operate in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories Palestinians claim for a future state.

“Boycott is a very tough word,” Schultz said, according to an e-mailed statement from the university. “To boycott means to completely block cooperation and trade between countries. We are not speaking about such a boycott.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net; Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv at jferziger@bloomberg.net

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

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