Is the EU preparing once again to hit Israel with sanctions? According to the Israeli press, the EUs own foreign policy diva is giving up on her soft diplomacy approach towards Prime Minister Netanyahu and falling back on the original blueprint to go ahead with a sanctions plan – which would not only bring a halt to the illegal land grab championed by Netanyahu to appease his far right coalition partners, but might even prepare the ground for talks for a two state solution.
In the course of her meetings with Israeli officials two weeks ago, European Union foreign policy head Frederica Mogherini reportedly told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that implementation of an EU draft policy to require labelling of goods originating in areas Israel acquired in the 1967 war – including east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights – is "inevitable" and beyond the point of reversing the decision.
Yet the reality of the move is far removed from media reports, as so far the idea of the labeling is merely a notion bandied about in the corridors of the Brussels executive and the European parliament.
Any such radical move, will require unanimous backing from 28 EU member states although a good number of EU countries have been trying to push forward the issue of food labeling for several years – an initiative that was frozen in 2013 at the request of US secretary of state, John Kerry at a time when he was trying to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Yet leading MEPs in Brussels are upbeat about the move, none the less.
"Even without the support of all 28 Member States at this stage, the important thing now is for Ms Mogherini to actually propose action on this matter", Ana Gomes MEP told An Nahar in an interview.
"Then, we´ll see how each Member State will assume its responsibilities. The European Parliament can and should also play a role in pressing reluctant Member States, particularly taking into consideration the impact of movement here against the continuing settlement policy of Israel that amounts to effective boycotting the Peace Process".
Alyn Smith, a Scottish MEP, was in Ramallah on Wednesday where he told An Nahar that the EU is moving in the right direction but needs to be much firmer, using the example of banned 'Made in Russia' products from Crimea as it was "illegally annexed by Russia" .
"I fully support Mogherini's wise decision to step up European efforts on labelling products from illegal Israeli settlements. We need an EU-wide labelling guideline of Israel's illegal settlement products if we are to be coherent with our commitment to uphold international law but also to promote a just and lasting peace in the Middle East" he told An Nahar.
"The EU is Israel's largest trading partner and we are tacitly developing Israel's illegal settlements by importing its –mostly agricultural- products produced on Palestinian land, often harvested by underpaid Palestinian workers, 2000 of whom are children according to the World's Labour Organization" he added.
Presently Foreign ministers from 16 EU countries – including the UK – have signed a letter to the EU's foreign policy head, Federica Mogherini, requesting she expedite moves to ensure the clear labeling of goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements and sold in Europe.
Any proposal she makes from Brussels will have to be ratified by all 28 EU governments and backed by the European parliament – a lengthy, tedious process could take months or even years to be completed.
The letter, recently leaked to the Israeli press comes amid mounting pressure from ministers in a number of European countries to advance punitive policies targeting Israel's settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Areas conquered in 1967 are claimed by the Palestinians as their state-in-waiting while since 1967, an Israeli population numbering about 350,000 (excluding Jerusalem) has built communities and homes in those areas. The European policy is intended to pressure Israel into evacuating the post-1967 lands while supporting the creation of the Palestinian state. The report, which was published by the financial newspaper The Marker, was denied by the Office of the Prime Minister.
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