A petition signed by 1,100 jurists, rabbis and diplomats was sent Monday to EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Catherine Ashton and the European Union's 28 foreign ministers, urging them to rescind Brussels' decision to impose financial sanctions on Israeli settlements. The petition deemed the EU's decision "legally flawed," saying it was based on different interpretations of international law that do not coincide with the reality on the ground.
The EU issued a new directive in mid-July calling on its member nations to limit or suspend their cooperation with Israeli institutions operating beyond the pre-1967 borders, which include Judea and Samaria, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The new funding guidelines, which may spell billions of dollars in losses for Israel, will go into effect in 2014.
The petition was organized by Alan Baker, Israel's former ambassador to Canada, who currently heads the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel's International Action Division.
Baker was quoted by The Jewish Tribune as saying that the 1,100 signatories included hundreds of lawyers, as well as senior ambassadors, professors and rabbis from Canada, Israel, the U.S., South Africa, the U.K., the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, France, Italy, Australia, Brazil and Chile.
Among those who joined the protest are former Israeli Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, U.K. House of Lords member Baroness Ruth Deech and former Israeli Ambassador to Washington Meir Rosenne.
Baker's letter to Ashton protested the "legally flawed and incorrect assumptions regarding both the legality of Israel's settlements and the status of the pre-1967 armistice lines as Israel's border."
Baker further warned that the EU's decision effectively states that "the border is the 1967 line" and that as a result "the Palestinians will find themselves getting support from the EU and [will be] far less inclined to enter into negotiations on these issues. … That's why I say in the letter that the Europeans are undermining the negotiations as well as their own commitments as a witness to the Oslo Accords and as the draftsman of Resolution 242, which talks about secure and recognized boundaries. They're acting in violation of their own positions that they've maintained throughout the years," he told the Jewish Tribune.
Maja Kocijancic, a spokesperson for Ashton, said she was "unaware of Baker's letter," adding that while the directive was only made official some two weeks ago, it was "already an ad hoc practice" by some of the bloc's members.
According to the report, Kocijancic said the directive would have little bearing on the issue of funding and that "not much would change" from the 2007-2013 funding period when, of the 800 million euros allotted to Israel, "less than .05 percent of the funds ended up in projects that take place in settlements."
Nachi Eyal, director of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, told Israel Hayom that the petition "was the first of its kind and it aims to serve as a tool for Israel's diplomatic efforts worldwide.
"Instead of standing up for our historical and legal rights, the State of Israel and its officials are cowering away and that is not how we can win this fight," he said. "The world needs to understand that there is a deliberate deception is being perpetrated [by the EU] and that Judea and Samaria belong to the Jewish people by their historic right as well as by law."