MEP accuses US and Israel of 'grandstanding' over occupied territories

US and Israeli attempts to dictate the European Union's policy on the occupied territories is overshadowing the peace process, warns David Martin.

By David Martin MEP

04 Oct 2013

As Israel and Palestine take hesitant and long-awaited steps back to the negotiating table, the quartet of the UN, the US, the EU and Russia is rightly anxious that both sides sit down and begin in earnest talks for a lasting peace.

But overshadowing this already has been unwelcome grandstanding from the US and Israel as they have attempted to dictate the European Union's policy on the occupied territories. The EU must stand absolutely firm in defending our principles and legislation.

"The EU does not recognise the occupied territories as part of the state of Israel, and over the past year has begun to tackle the glaring contradictions in EU rhetoric and practice"

The Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and a serious obstacle to the peace process. The EU has said it; the quartet has said it and human rights organisations based on both sides of the border have reiterated it year after year.

But still the Israeli government continues to build houses on occupied land and ignore the international community's pleas. The EU does not recognise the occupied territories as part of the state of Israel, and over the past year has begun to tackle the glaring contradictions in EU rhetoric and practice: the labelling of goods and the funding of research projects.

Earlier this year EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton wrote to the member states enquiring if they would welcome voluntary guidelines on the accurate labelling of goods from the occupied territories. The answer was yes.

Recognising that consumers are entitled to know where their produce comes from, member states and the European parliament are keen to bring in national, if not EU-level, requirements for labelling. The exploitation of the occupied land is an international scandal and I know many of my constituents demand the right to boycott these products which come from Palestinian land but do not help the Palestinians. I would certainly join them in a boycott.

These guidelines are expected to be published shortly, but in the meantime the commission also published funding guidelines in July. These clarify that money granted for joint research projects with Israel should not be used in the occupied territories.

We are now familiar with the questionable funding which went to the Ahava cosmetics company and others while operating in the West Bank. European money funding Israeli exploitation is absolutely unacceptable and the parliament must rigorously monitor the strict application of these guidelines.

The US secretary of state John Kerry's recent warning that the guidelines will provoke Israel is unwise. Israeli and US demands for the EU to water down its internal procedures is detrimental to the peace process and fails to respect the European position on the occupied territories.

How long will the Israeli tail continue to wag the US dog while a peace settlement recedes further into the future?

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