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Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)
Association of World Council of Churches related Development Organisations in Europe (APRODEV)
14 February 2012
PROMOTING AND ENSURING RESPECT FOR
The Israeli occupation of the OPT and the violations of international law associated with it, constitute major obstacles to a just and viable solution between Israelis and Palestinians, stability and security for all and economic development for Palestinians. Since the 1980s, the EU’s diplomatic declarations have highlighted how respect for international law is a crucial component of the resolution of the conflict. However, its policy towards the conflict has been characterised by a growing gap between its legal commitments and vision of a peaceful Middle East - based on respect for international law and a two-State solution-, and the implementation of its policies on the ground through its bilateral relations with Israel and the PA.
The current deadlock in the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), along with the revision of the ENP in the wake of the Arab Revolutions, offers an opportunity to the EU to revise its policy vis-àvis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and mainstream IHL and IHRL in its relations with both parties.
When it comes to EU-Israel relations, the report argues that the EU has not utilised all the means at its disposal to promote Israel’s compliance with its international legal obligations, nor has it ensured that its contractual relations with Israel are in full compliance with its own obligations under international law. In this report, APRODEV and EMHRN analyse the possibilities for the EU to:
1. Encourage and, when necessary, exert pressure on Israel to respect IHRL and IHL; and
2. Ensure respect for international law in EU-Israel bilateral relations.
The first part of the report analyses Israel’s gradual integration into the EU’s Internal Market, despite its ongoing violations of international law in the OPT. This pattern shifted slightly in the 2008 EU-Israel upgrade negotiations. For the first time, the EU made a link between Israel’s policy in the OPT vis-à-vis their commitment to the MEPP and progress in their bilateral relations with the EU. In 2009, following the Israeli military offensive in Gaza (December 2008 - January 2009) and lack of engagement by the Israeli government with peace negotiations, the EU froze the upgrade. As of 2011, the process remains on hold.
While APRODEV and EMHRN note this development, they still consider that these measures fall short of an approach to EU-Israel relations that is guided by principles of international law. In order to promote respect for international law in its bilateral relations with Israel, certain elements of EU policy contained in the ENP review - as initiated in 2010 and adopted in 2011 -
should also apply to EU-Israel relations.
These direct the EU to:
1. Condition its relations with Israel on respect for IHRL and IHL;
2. Adopt a coherent and comprehensive reporting mechanism on IHRL and IHL violations;
3. Address Israeli human rights violations in all aspects of its dialogue with Israel; and
4. Protect Israeli and Palestinian civil society organisations and consult with them at all stages of development in EU-Israel relations.
The second part of the report addresses Israel’s practise of expanding the scope and implementation of its cooperation instruments with the EU to illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and to those areas officially annexed, namely East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The EU’s international legal obligation not to recognise as lawful Israel’s settlement and annexation policy compels it to adopt appropriate measures. The report shows that, in most cases, when the issue has been presented to the EU it has tried to adopt corrective measures. However, these have always fallen short of making sure that the illegal settlements and annexed territories do not benefit from cooperation with these instruments.
As such, while the EU maintains its position on the illegality of the settlements, it is missing an opportunity to take effective action. An example of this contradiction can be found in the way that the EU deals with violations of the EU-Israel Association Agreement through Israel’s export of settlement products to the EU. The current compromise, based on a technical arrangement agreed with Israel, gives the EU the possibility of imposing custom duties on these products. However, it allows Israel to export settlement products as if they originated from Israel proper, i.e. in its 1967 borders. As EU customs officials cannot effectively check all Israeli products entering the market, not all settlement products are taxed. Similarly, the EU has been unable to fully exclude all Israeli entities based in, or operating from, settlements and annexed territories from participating in one of the EU’s Community Programmes, the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7).
Based on the EU’s obligation to comply with the duty of non-recognition, its position on the illegality of settlements and the need for consistency between diplomatic declaration and action, the EMHRN and APRODEV call on the EU to:
1. Include safeguard clauses in all EU-Israel cooperation agreements that allow only Israeli entities with headquarters, branches and subsidiaries registered and established in Israel proper and conducting activities over the same territory to participate in EU agencies and programmes;
2. Include relevant provisions in any agreement with Israel to explicitly limit the territorial application of the agreement to Israel proper; and
3. Amend the technical arrangement to ensure that Israel makes the distinction between products coming from Israel proper with those from settlements.
1 “A Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean”, Commission Communication, 8 March 2011, COM (2011) 200 final, available at
. eu/commission_2010-2014/president/news/speeches-statements/pdf/20110308_en.pdf and “A New Response to a Changing Neighbourhood”, Joint Communication from the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, 25 May 2011, COM (2011) 303, available at
Complete document in PDF format