The European Union has banned the import of poultry and eggs from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israeli news website Walla reported Thursday, in what amounts to the first EU ban on any Israeli products.
The 28-nation bloc informed the Israeli Agriculture Ministry that it cannot accept its authority to certify products from West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem, areas that the international community says Israel is illegally occupying, Walla reported.
An EU official in Tel Aviv confirmed the report and said the ruling was issued "in the spirit" of European guidelines, which came into force in January, prohibiting dealings with Israeli settlement-based firms.
The settlements are illegal under international law, and their continued expansion in the face of EU and U.S. criticism was a factor in the recent collapse of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Israel's Agriculture Ministry said it was surprised by the decision and, in a letter to the EU, stated that the veterinary supervision in the settlements meets international standards, according to Walla.
"This issue, like many other trade issues that come up in the framework of trade relations between Israel and the European Union, will be addressed within the framework of the ongoing professional dialogue between the parties," Walla quoted a ministry representative as saying.
Poultry and related products from the settlements account for less than 5 percent of all such products in Israel, so the new European measure will have little impact from an economic standpoint, Walla reported.
Palestinian activists welcomed the ban and expressed hope that it would one day be extended to all Israeli companies operating in the occupied territories.
"Palestinian civil society welcomes this small but significant step to ensure that the EU does not provide recognition or assistance to Israel's illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, which continue to expand and forcibly displace Palestinian communities," said activist Jamal Juma' in a press release issued by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee.
He added, however, that if the EU is serious about taking "concrete and effective" measures against Israel, it should start by banning all trade with Israeli settlements.
"Israel's sabotage of every effort to reach a just peace based on UN resolutions must lead to real, not just cosmetic, consequences," Juma' said.
The EU ban comes amid a growing global campaign to apply economic and political pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories.
Earlier this month, Richard Falk, the former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, called for worldwide solidarity with the Palestinian struggle through boycott and divestment from "companies profiting from illegal Israeli settlement construction."
“Regretfully, over the past nine months, Israel accelerated settlement construction, demolished Palestinian homes in the West Bank and broke its agreement to release the final batch of 30 pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel for over 20 years,” Falk said in a report published by the U.N.
According to figures released by the NGO Peace Now, Israel promoted 13,851 new housing units during the nine months set aside for reaching a peace agreement with Palestinians — an average of 50 housing units per day.
With Agence France-Presse