The European Union has forbidden its member states from funding Israeli individuals or organizations based in the contested territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Tuesday.
In new guidelines that were originally published on June 30 and are scheduled to go into effect on Friday, the 28 nations that make up the E.U. are no longer allowed to contribute financially to or cooperate in any way with organizations that are headquartered beyond the historic “Green Line” that divides the West Bank from the rest of Israel.
Significantly, the guidelines also define East Jerusalem as one of the illegal Israeli settlements that cannot receive future funding. East Jerusalem includes Old City landmarks like the Temple Mount and the Western Wall that are central to thousands of years of Jewish faith and history, making Israeli agreement with the ruling very unlikely.
An anonymous official characterized the regulations as largely symbolic yet important, telling Haaretz that “until today there were understandings and quiet agreements that the Union does not work beyond the Green Line,” and that the “formal, binding policy” came as an “earthquake.”
The guidelines, which would stay in effect until 2020, do not directly call Israeli settlements illegal. Instead, they require that any future partnerships between Israel and an E.U. member state include a clause that specifically defines the parameters of the Israeli nation – parameters that exclude the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel was quick to condemn the news. Efraim Inbar, Director of the Began-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, said that criticism of Israeli settlements lacked historical perspective.
“Anyone that sees Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, the holiest place to the Jews but beyond the 1967 borders, as foreign occupation, is denying Jewish history and is an anti-Semite,” Inbar told The Daily Caller. He added that the E.U. decision “betrays prejudice and ignorance of the conflict.”
The U.S., historically a staunch supporter of Israeli, was mute on the regulations, even as Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Jordan on Tuesday. Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, predicted that the Obama administration would likely try to avoid a conflict between two of its strongest allies.
“I’m not sure that there will be any change in American behavior as a result” of the news, Elgindy told TheDC.
Despite the specter of “significant consequences economically” for both Israel and the E.U., Elgindy also said that the “E.U. has always been much more principled in terms of being guided by international law when it comes to Israeli settlements,” referring to existing U.N. anti-settlement resolutions.
Eliot Abrams, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who worked in the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush White Houses, ridiculed the E. U. in the wake of the ruling, calling it “a non-player in peace efforts.” Abrams, who is Jewish and serves on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, told TheDC that “Israelis conclude this [decision] is a combination of local politics and bias, and once again they turn exclusively to the U.S. Why the EU nations think these actions achieve a great deal is mysterious.”
The United Nations has condemned Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem as illegal since 1980, but their resolutions lack the financial force that comes with the E.U. ruling. As one anonymous Israeli official put it, the ruling’s “result could be a halt to all cooperation in economics, science, culture, sports and academia. This would cause severe damage to Israel.”