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Businessmen Up in Arms Over EU’s View of Modi’in as 'Settlement'

The European Union’s decision to label Modi’in as a “settlement” has infuriated Israeli businessmen, normally viewed as center and left.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 8/15/2012, 1:14 PM

The 'settlement' of Modi'in
The 'settlement' of Modi'in
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The European Union’s decision to label Modi’in as a “settlement” has infuriated Israeli businessmen, normally aligned with the center and left.

The EU statement Tuesday declared that the Greater Modi’in area is located on what was “no-man’s land after the 1948 War of Independence, and any areas not clearly under Israeli sovereignty at the time are deemed as “occupied.”

Modi’in is a modern up-scale city that has merged with Maccabim and Reut, giving it a population of more than 80,000. It is located halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Greater Modi’in Chamber of Commerce chairman Dror Atari thoroughly rejected the EU decision, stating that “the business sector in Israel as a whole and in Modi’in in particular is involved on a daily basis with European Union companies, including cooperation between their head offices.”

“Dozens of legitimate Israeli business operate in the area,” and we totally reject the EU conclusions that Modi’in is part of a ‘foreign territory,’” he said.

The decision by the EU means that businesses in the area will not enjoy duty-free status as stated in the 1995 EU-Israel Free Trade Agreement.

Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute chairman Ramzi Gabbay told Globes that even though the area has few exports, "The government should make every effort to remove this from the agenda to prevent creating a precedent."

Gil Nadal, an expert in international trade law, warned that the new directive will harm the competitiveness of many Israeli exporters in Europe, the business newspaper added.

Among the residents of Greater Modi’in are Mark Regev, spokesman for the Office of the Prime Minister, and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

The Foreign Ministry stated, “Remarkably, by the unilateral publication of the locations list on the Internet, the EU has unacceptably cut off a negotiating process regarding this very issue. This action, conducted ‘ex abrupto,’ has therefore been the object of an official protest lodged by the Mission of Israel in Brussels to the European Union.”

Modiin Mayor Chaim Bibas said Tuesday, “This decision is a mistake that does not correlate with the facts on the ground. Modiin-Maccabim-Reut is an indivisible part of the state of Israel.” He invited EU representatives to visit the city “and to understand their mistake.”