Israel seeks to negotiate on planned EU sanctions

By Dan Williams

Israel appealed to the European Union on Friday to rethink planned sanctions against its organizations in the occupied territories and called for talks, a shift in tone from previous Israeli anger and retaliatory measures.

Under guidelines adopted by the executive European Commission in June, Israeli “entities” operating in the West Bank and East Jerusalem will not be eligible for EU grants, prizes or loans from next year.

The move was welcomed by Palestinians, who seek statehood in those territories, and deplored by Israel, which has settled the West Bank extensively and considers all of Jerusalem its undivided capital – a status not recognized internationally.

The rightist Israeli government responded on July 26 by announcing curbs on EU aid projects for thousands of West Bank Palestinians. On Thursday it accused the Europeans of harming Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and said it would not sign new deals with the 28-nation bloc given the planned sanctions.

But Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin took a more diplomatic tack on Friday, offering to negotiate with the European Union over the guidelines, which he described as a challenge to the Jewish state’s sovereignty.

“We are ready to hold a creative dialogue with the Europeans. We understand their position. We reject it, we don’t like it, but it’s their right when it comes to using their money,” Elkin told Israel Radio.

“We are asking the Europeans also to take into consideration the legal and other problems this creates on the Israeli side. We want to return and are ready to negotiate. But if the terms are the way they are today – unprecedented and several steps beyond anything heretofore – then we won’t be able to do it.”

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