Ireland is planning to utilize its upcoming term as President of the Council of the European Union, which begins on January 1 2013, to advance efforts to achieve a joint decision between all 27 member states to ban products from West Bank Settlements.
The Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, revealed the plan in a letter to the chairman of the Irish parliament’s Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade.
In a letter obtained by Haaretz, dated November 2, Gilmore wrote that during a meeting of EU foreign ministers in October, he declared that Ireland will give rise to discussions and support a comprehensive EU boycott of goods from settlements.
In the letter, Gilmore stated his agenda for future EU foreign minister council meetings. “It will be for that future Council meeting to review what response there has been to the May Conclusions,” wrote Gilmore, referring to recent decisions to intensify enforcement of EU taxes on settlement goods.
In addition, the council will “decide on any stronger response, which might include a ban on settlement goods.”
Gilmore continued, “I am pleased that we have put this issue on the table, and we are in contact with other partners on the question.”
Gilmore pointed out in his letter that he sees a ban of settlement goods as “consistent with EU values,” adding that there is also “a moral case for banning settlement products,” which could have a symbolic effect.
Gilmore also added that he does not believe that a ban on goods would put an end to settlement expansion or even hinder it in any way.
According to Gilmore, it is necessary to focus on ceasing the “relentless expansion” of the settlements, and not just the issue of settlement products. “Most settlements are dormitory towns for people who work in Israel and they do not export anything,” wrote Gilmore.
Gilmore continued, “Products from settlements, for the most part fruit and vegetables, are not a major element of the Israeli economy, and would be a small fraction of imports to the EU from Israel. It is likely that virtually all settlement products could be absorbed by the domestic Israeli market.”
The Irish Foreign Minister also noted in his letter that due to various legal and practical issues, there is no reason to implement a ban on settlement products at the national level. He stressed that only a comprehensive EU ban, at the international level, would be effective.
He also highlighted that in light of changes in EU institutions; Ireland’s influence over the council of EU foreign ministers, even as EU council president, is limited. He pointed out many EU member nations are against a ban on settlement goods. In order to reach a decision on the issue, a consensus of all 27 member states must be reached.
“I remain convinced that there is no prospect, at this point, of reaching agreement on a ban at EU level,” wrote Gilmore.
“And until there is such a prospect, it would be a mistake for Ireland to focus our energies on this aspect of the problem.”