EU Ambassador Bashes BDS - but Defends 'Policy on Settlements'
European Union (EU) ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen explained the EU's policies on Israel, peace talks, and Palestinian Arabs on Wednesday, in a special interview with Arutz Sheva.
Faaborg-Andersen first described the relationship between the EU and Israel, which he said "is getting stronger every day."
"I see my main mission as strengthening the relationship between the EU and Israel in a host of fields, we already enjoy a very strong and vibrant relationship - maybe the strongest that the EU has with any third state - and it ranges across trade, science and technology, visa-free trade, the open-skies agreement that's driving down the prices for air transport, you name it," he enthused.
As such, he said, the EU's many statements about the peace process are not putting pressure on Israel - but rather providing "friendly advice," in his words.
"I don't think that we are pressurizing [sic] Israel, we are trying to convince through open dialogue and debate [. . .] [to get] Israel to take some of the decisions in the peace process that we think are the right ones for Israel," he stated. "So we are providing what I would term 'friendly advice' on what we think Israel should do - particularly [regarding] the relationship with the Palestinians, and we are very much encouraged by the process that Secretary Kerry has put on, we are 100% behind it, and therefore we [are] also concerned now, when the process it at an impasse."
"We encourage both Israelis and Palestinians to resume the process and drive ahead towards a resolution of the conflict," he added.
Rooting for Abbas
Conversation then turned to the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation pact, the driving force behind the breakdown of talks. Israel has maintained, over and over again, that it will not negotiate with terrorists, and Hamas is defined in the EU as a terrorist organization.
"I hope that it will very soon be apparent that the technocratic government that Mr. Abbas has announced that he will be forming will be subscribing to the Quartet principles - that is, accepting Israel's legitimate right to exist, renouncing violence, and accepting previous agreements in the peace process - and that on that basis, Israel will be able to pick up the negotiations with the Palestinians again, and drive the process forward toward results."
Faaborg-Andersen's comments explain Abbas's sudden about-face earlier Wednesday, when the PA Chairman explained to Walla! News that a 'unity' government would be based on what he called "the four Palestinian principles": recognizing Israel, recognizing the terms of international agreements, and the explicit rejection of violence and terrorism.
The move is a surprising about-face for Abbas, who has insisted that Hamas"doesn't need to recognize Israel" in the framework of a unity government.
Hamas, for its part, continues to be adamant over its full control of a "unity" government, expressing over and over again that it would remain in control of both Gaza and the PA after elections and insisting that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would rule the government.
Boycotts: do they or don't they?
Faaborg-Andersen then stated that while the EU does not support boycotts against Israel, it does prevent taxpayers' money from being spent in parts of Israel.
"Let me make it 100% clear: the EU is against the so-called 'BDS' - Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions - and we are against any attempts to isolate Israel," he insisted. "What we have done is we have implemented our policy when it comes to settlements, which is a policy of Disengagement from settlements."
"We feel, as you know, that settlements are illegal under international law, and they are an obstacle to the peace process," he continued, "and for that reason we have taken certain decisions - including to ensure that no European taxpayer's money is spent in settlements."
The ambassador evaded questions over whether or not the move would harm Palestinian Arabs' income over 1949 Armistice Lines.
"I think there's a broader issue involved here, because settlements really are an obstacle to the economic development of the Palestinian territories," he insisted, saying the detriments of that "obstacle" are "greater than the benefits" of funding both populations equally.
When asked about the economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs in such places as Gush Etzion and Barkan, he said that the space of roads and other infrastructure by "settlements" take up space "which otherwise could have been turned into productive use [sic] for the Palestinians, in terms of expanding for land and agriculture, mining, and so on."
"A study from the World Bank has shown that just giving the Palestinians 2% more access would boost their GDP considerably," he added.
The ambassador then admitted to the EU's own personal gain in funding the PA.
"You must keep in mind, also, that the European Union is the biggest donor to the Palestinian Authority," he said, "and therefore, in a way, every Euro that they are making more themselves is benefitting us in us having to pay less in development assistance to them."