The European Union has confirmed that it will no longer allow EU funding to go to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. EU member states will be banned from providing any “grants, prizes and financial instruments funded by the EU” unless Israel guarantees that they will not benefit the settlements.
Israel has condemned the move, saying it may harm efforts to revive peace talks.
Israeli Cabinet minister, Silvan Shalom, said: “The Europeans are making a big mistake once again. They always would like to play a key role in the peace process but once again they are showing us that they cannot play a key role because they don’t have a balanced attitude towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.
EU Commission spokesperson, Maja Kocijancic, defended the EU’s position, saying: “It’s in conformity with the long-running, long-standing EU position, that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and also with the position that I already mention, with the non-recognition by the European Union of Israel sovereignty over the occupied territories.”
Those who live in the settlements say they should not be treated differently.
Rachel Marciano, a resident of Har Homa in the West Bank said: “I am completely against the decision to make a difference between the settlement and Israel. I think that Jews are living over there and we are all of us Israelis. They are Israelis, we are Israelis so there shouldn’t be any difference between us”
The United States wants to get peace talks back on the table but the Palestinians say they will not return to negotiating as long as Israeli settlement construction continues. The settlements, built on land captured by Israel in the 1967 war, are viewed as illegal under international law.
The Palestinians hope to build their state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, where the settlements are being built.
The new guidelines will take effect from next year. They do not affect trade and goods originating from Israeli settlements will still be allowed into the EU.
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