Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum are slamming a European Union decision to ban the funding of any Israeli institutions that operate in Judea, Samaria, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, contending the move is one-sided, discriminatory, and an obstacle to making peace with the Palestinians.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett is calling the EU’s decision “an economic terror attack” while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he won’t allow “the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria, on the Golan Heights and in Jerusalem, our united capital, to be harmed.”
Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria suggested the European move is reminiscent of Nazism since the directive targets only Israeli Jewish institutions doing business in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, not Palestinian Muslim or Christian groups.
“How will be selection done on youth delegations? A German will say: Tel Aviv to the right, East Jlem to the left? Or it will be a Polish job?,” Dayan tweeted, referring to the German “selection” process at concentration camps, moving young and healthy Jews to one side and the elderly and feeble to the group which was then sent to the gas chambers.
The Times of Israel points out that the new policy demands in effect that “Israel deny – in writing – any rights to the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, as a precondition for signing any agreement with the EU.” That’s because the entire Old City including the Western Wall is located in the territories Israel captured during the 1967 war and is land Palestinians want as part of an independent Palestinian state.
After learning of the EU decision which is set to take effect on Friday, Netanyahu summoned his senior ministers for an emergency meeting Tuesday and made an on-camera statement in which he accused EU officials of disregard for the more volatile regional issues that threaten Israel.
“I expect those who really want peace and regional stability to deal with this matter [of West Bank settlements] after they solve more pressing problems in the region like the Syrian civil war and Iran’s race to get a nuclear weapon,” Netanyahu said.
“We will not accept any foreign dictates about our borders. This matter will only be determined through direct negotiation between the [two] sides,” he added.
Even left-wing members of Knesset condemned the EU move.
Labor Knesset Member Hilik Bar who authored a bill opposing future Israeli annexation of West Bank territory without agreement from the Palestinians tells the Times of Israel, “This directive is simply a mistake, a stupid move that strengthens the right’s sense that we are under siege,” and that it will only serve to keep Mahmoud Abbas from returning to peace talks.
Even opposition leader Labor Party Member of Knesset Shelly Yachimovich who rarely takes the same side as Netanyahu said, “It is too bad that instead of supporting the Americans’ efforts to resume negotiations [between Israel and the Palestinians], the European Union is focusing on sanctions and boycotts.”
Israelis have been watching with dismay other European policies, including the EU’s inability after months of negotiations to come to an agreement on blacklisting Hezbollah as a terrorist group and a decision last week in Poland to continue banning the production of kosher meat.
The announcement of the new EU policy was particularly painful for Jews as it came on the national mourning and fast day of Tisha B’av, when according to the Hebrew calendar both the First and Second Temples were destroyed in Jerusalem. The Western Wall is the remaining structure that survived the Roman onslaught on the Temple in 70 A.D.
According to a statement quoted by the Associated Press, the EU’s mission to Israel said the new funding guidelines will apply to “grants, prizes and financial instruments funded by the EU from 2014 onwards.”
It writes that the EU issues grants annually in the sum of millions of euros to Israeli universities, companies and researchers. Projects have included monies to help establish a center to reduce greenhouse emissions and another project to improve veterinary inspections of livestock.
“The guidelines are … in conformity with the EU’s longstanding position that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law … irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law,” the EU statement said.
“The purpose of these guidelines is to make a distinction between the state of Israel and the occupied territories when it comes to EU support,” it added.
The U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League is also rejecting the EU directive as biased. It writes, “We must ask, why hasn’t E.U. support to the Palestinian Authority been conditioned on removal of its publicly expressed pre-conditions to return to negotiations with Israel? Why hasn’t E.U. support to the Palestinian Authority been conditioned on an end to anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement on official Palestinian media?”
Right-wing Economy Minister Bennett says the European Union is in fact sidelining itself. “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t ask to be involved in the [peace] process and at the same time take one-sided action,” he said.
“Catherine Ashton [the EU foreign policy chief] will not force us to hand over Jerusalem to our enemies,” Bennett told Channel 2 News.
At the same time, he insisted Israel will survive the political assault. “For 65 years, we have experienced embargoes and sanctions, and yet trade with Europe, China and the US has never been better,” he said.
Palestinian Authority official Hanan Ashrawi praised the decision, saying “The EU has moved from the level of statements, declarations and denunciations to effective policy decisions and concrete steps,” adding, “The Israeli occupation must be held to account.”
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin called the EU decision a “worrying move” that will embolden the Palestinians in their “refusal to return to the negotiation table.”
Secretary of State John Kerry was in Jordan on Tuesday, his sixth visit to the region since taking office, in an effort to bring the sides together for peace negotiations.
Assistant Editor of Commentary Magazine Seth Mandel writes, “But they [the EU] have made Kerry’s task impossible. Even for Brussels, this is some serious chutzpah: the EU has decided to use a Jewish period of national mourning to target Jerusalem’s Jews as well as preempt the chief American diplomat’s work by sabotaging his trip and setting him up for a humiliating public failure they engineered.”
“There isn’t much evidence the EU actually wants peace. If they can agree to shun Jews from Jerusalem but not Hezbollah, then it’s quite the leap to assume they only want what’s best for everyone,” Mandel writes.