EU looks to compile blacklist barring entry to 'known violent' Israeli settlers
The European Union is recommending a blacklist of "known violent settlers" who will be blocked from entering EU member states, a Western diplomat told Haaretz.
The diplomat said no final decision has been made at the foreign ministers level, but that the EU's committee of Middle East experts has recommended going ahead with the process. The issue is expected to come up for discussion at one of the upcoming EU foreign ministers meetings.
In January of this year, the consuls general of the EU countries in East Jerusalem and Ramallah wrote a report dealing with settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, especially the incidents the settlers refer to as "price tag" revenge attacks.
The report recommended that EU headquarters in Brussels draw up a blacklist of settlers who would be forbidden entry into the 27 EU states.
The consuls' report lay unaddressed for five months, until the EU foreign ministers decided, on May 14, to take practical steps against settler violence in Area C in the West Bank, which is under full Israeli military and civilian control.
On June 12, the EU's committee of Middle East experts in Brussels was asked to recommend which steps should be taken. The panel, known in EU jargon as the Maghreb-Mashreq committee (or MaMa ), includes representatives of all 27 EU countries. After a few months of discussion, a classified document of recommendations was submitted on October 17 to the diplomatic-security committee that prepares the agenda for the EU foreign ministers' meetings.
This document, which was obtained by Haaretz, says most of the violent incidents perpetrated by settlers "appear to be part of a pattern of coercion aimed at forcing Palestinian communities in Area C to leave with a view to expanding settlements or outposts."
The document also states that the "political strength of the settler movement has grown" and "the Israeli authorities have generally not taken firm action against outposts [that are] also illegal under Israeli law." Given that, it states, a "culture of impunity is which the violence continues" has developed.
The committee said the settler attacks were becoming more serious and, in some areas, more coordinated. The United Nations "considers settler violence as the biggest security threat to its personnel in the West Bank," the document states.
The experts also said Israeli perpetrators of violence against Palestinians rarely face punishment and cited "worrying reports of incidents of the Israeli military, despite being present, [having] failed to intervene to protect Palestinians or their property from violence by extremist settlers."
"If settler violence is not dealt with preventively, it will increasingly obstruct efforts by both parties for solving the conflict," the document states. It suggested that member states "could explore the possibilities of denying access of known violent settlers to the EU."
Several of the committee experts visited the West Bank and Israel last week. A Foreign Ministry source said the visit "was totally unbalanced. Unfortunately, this is typical of some of the European clerical staff."
According to the source, the European diplomats devoted most of their time to visiting the Palestinian Authority areas, and made several tours of the region accompanied solely by Palestinian officials.
The Foreign Ministry was infuriated when told of the document's contents, with officials saying that Israel had had no inkling that EU institutions were preparing any such blacklist.
"It's hard to respond to a paper we haven't seen," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. "As for the inflammatory proposal to refuse to admit what they call 'known violent settlers' because Israel hasn't put them on trial, there's an internal contradiction there. How will a person be defined as a 'violent settler' if he hasn't been convicted? And if he's been convicted, then Israel has brought him to justice. It seems as if in their eagerness to suggest tough measures, these esteemed experts neglected simple logic."