Amid pressure from pro-Palestinian groups, the European Union (EU) Tuesday released a list of Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line from which manufactured products will not be allowed duty-free entrance into Europe. For the first time, parts of the Israeli city Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut — often simply called Modi’in — were added to the list. Modi’in sits on the West Bank border, with small parts located across the Green Line. Under the EU-Israel free trade agreement, Israeli goods produced inside the Green Line are entitled to tariff exemptions while goods from outside that borderline are not.
The EU move is unlikely to have much of an effect on the Israeli economy. Still, as Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute chairman Ramzi Gabbay said, this new EU policy may create a bad precedent. For its part, Israel is protesting the EU decision, with the Israeli Foreign Ministry calling the whole of Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut “an integral part of Israel”. According to Israeli Information Minister Yuli Edelstein, “If Modi’in isn’t a part of Israel then the EU is not part of reality. As far as the EU is concerned, it appears that Tel Aviv, Itamar, Modi’in and Beit El are all in illegitimate territory…”
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton shakes the hand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Getty Images)
Though the EU is Israel’s primary trading partner, bilateral relations are sometimes tense. Last September, the EU granted duty-free access to Palestinian goods from the same territory it taxes Israeli-produced goods, and it also allows duty-free access to goods entering from Hamas-run Gaza. More recently, the EU rejected Israel’s request to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization following last month’s attack against Israelis vacationing in Bulgaria, for which Jerusalem blamed the Shi’ite terror group. Indeed, European states even let Hezbollah operate openly.
The EU is doing nothing more than politicizing its trade agreement with Israel by determining what should be considered Israeli territory and Palestinian territory in the future. The precedent created, however, is troubling as it could open the floodgates to all sorts of challenges to Israel’s sovereign and territorial legitimacy.