EU Warns Israel of Consequences on Faster Settlement Pace

The European Union condemned Israel’s accelerated construction of settlements in the West Bank and warned of possible further curbs on trade with Israeli businesses operating on land seized from Palestinians.

The EU “deeply deplores” the latest Israeli building activity, including the demolition of EU-financed projects, the bloc’s foreign ministers said in a statement in Brussels today.

EU governments will “ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products,” according to the statement. It said the EU is ready “to take further action in order to protect the viability of the two state solution.”

EU frustration with Israel was heightened by unrest last week in east Jerusalem, captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war and sought by Palestinians as the capital of an independent state. Rage surged after Israel temporarily closed the Temple Mount, a sacred site to Jews and Muslims.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini denied a report in Haaretz newspaper that the EU is considering wide-ranging sanctions against Israel, including the recall of ambassadors.

“There is no plan of this type,” Mogherini told reporters. She said the report was based on a “technical working hypothesis which wasn’t on the table today.”

Palestinian Statehood

Mogherini also suggested that the debate in European capitals over the possible recognition of Palestine as a state is a distraction from efforts to bring that statehood about. Sweden’s new government has recognized the Palestinian state, and British lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution urging the U.K. government to do the same.

“The real point is not so much the recognition of a Palestinian state, but what can we usefully do to have a Palestinian state,” she said. “You can have recognition in several member states without things changing radically on the ground.”

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