The European Union (EU) is apparently fed up with the lack of progress in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and is threatening to take action against both sides if the talks fail.
A senior EU official said Tuesday that the bloc was considering cutting its annual aid to the PA if the current round of talks fails to end in an agreement. The EU provides the PA with about 300 million Euros in aid per year.
As well, the official was quoted by Israeli media as having said, the 28-nation bloc was considering reviving its plan to label products manufactured in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.
The official said that half the nations in the EU, including Britain and France, have expressed support for implementing the plan right away.
Plans to label “settlement products” have been in the works for a while. Earlier this year, the EU formally recommended that Israeli activity in Judea and Samaria be “prevented” through an economic boycott of Jewish industry in those regions. Such a move would affect tens of thousands of PA Arabs who are employed in Jewish-owned industry in the area.
EU foreign ministers, including Britain’s William Hague and Laurent Fabius of France, indicated at one point they would back the labeling initiative, but it was later reported that the plans were postponed after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry intervened.
Despite the warnings, however, the EU envoy to Israel expressed optimism on Tuesday about the peace talks.
EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen told AFP there was still time for progress.
"There is reason to be more optimistic for a breakthrough this time around," he said, adding, "We're not at crunch time yet."
Faaborg-Andersen spoke out against recent Israeli announcements that it would build new homes in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Following the announcement, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reprimanded Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel and cancelled the construction, but the PA was still threatening as of this week to pull out of the talks because of Israel’s building plans.
"It's a very unfortunate dynamic, the prisoner release and the settlement announcements," Faaborg-Andersen said, noting that both the European Union and the United States had sharply condemned the plans.
He rejected the suggestion that the West was not taking a tough enough line on Israeli construction on land the PA claims for a future state.
"The international community is united on the issue of settlements, which is probably why the 24,000 tenders did not materialize," he told AFP.
Faaborg-Andersen said that despite the lack of progress in talks, Kerry’s tenacious diplomacy could yet surprise peace talk skeptics.
"This is not something we've seen in some time. He's a very, very strong partner of Israel, and of the Palestinian Authority," he said.
"They have a partner who is very, very committed and that augurs well for the process."
Kerry is due back in the region Wednesday to meet both sides in a bid to breathe life into the talks.
Ahead of the meeting, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has once again warned that the PA will "take action" against Israel via international bodies if peace talks fail.