Alan Philps writes: On Sunday, the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy published a startling article. As a patriotic Israeli, he wrote in Haaretz newspaper, he had no choice but to declare himself in favour of an economic boycott of his own country until it withdrew from the occupied territories. Given the prospects of “another round of deep stalemate” – a reference to US secretary of state John Kerry’s best efforts to rekindle Israeli-Palestinian peace talks – only sanctions would make Israel change.
Mr Levy is a maverick in Israeli journalism, a lone figure trying to stand in the way of the juggernaut of the Israeli state as it settles ever more Palestinian land. His article was greeted with a shrug, perhaps barely even that.
Two days later, it emerged that the European Union, after many years of dithering, had decided that it would not support any settler projects in the occupied territories. None of its grants, prizes or other sorts of funding would be available to settler entities or institutions, and Israel would have to formally accept this condition in applying for funds.
This news was not greeted with a shrug. One Israeli official called it an “earthquake”. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a defiant statement that Israel would never accept foreign “dictates” on its borders. There were dark hints about the “unhelpful” timing of the move: Yair Lapid, the finance minister, said it would “sabotage” the Kerry mission by encouraging the Palestinians to believe that Israel could be subject to outside pressure.
The move is of little financial significance, but deeply symbolic. The “green line” marking the border between internationally recognised Israel and the occupied territory has long disappeared from Israeli maps. The road network already knits the Jewish settlements seamlessly with major Israeli towns.
The 28 member states of the European Union are not going to change those facts on the ground, and the decision does not immediately affect Israel’s $40 billion trade with the EU. But it does mark a belated stiffening of the European backbone. [Continue reading…]