Putting the Green Line back on the map

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Friday, 28 June, 2013

“There is an expiration date to the two-state solution. I hope we haven’t passed it yet” – Avrum Burg, former Speaker of the Knesset As Europe discusses its trade relations with Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israeli and Palestinian voices call for proper labelling of settlement products as a concrete step to revive hopes for peace in the region.

The rapidly accelerating expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank threatens to wipe out the pre-1967 borders between Israelis and Palestinians. In this video, Israeli and Palestinian voices explain that putting the 1967 ‘Green Line’ back on the map is the only realistic path towards peace in the region and will reinforce the legitimacy of both parties to the conflict. They suggest that a concrete step towards this goal would be for the European Union to label products made in Israel differently from those made in Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.

The video features Semma Quran, from Ramallah-based NGO “Palestinians for dignity”, Avrum Burg, former Speaker of the Knesset, and Alon Liel, former Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Ahead of his fifth visit to the Middle East since January, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the window of opportunity for a resumption of talks between Israelis and Palestinians was narrowing. “Time is the enemy of a peace process,” he said in Kuwait on Wednesday 26 June.

The Elders have repeatedly warned that the two-state solution may soon be out of reach. They consider the expansion of Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line as one of the main impediments to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.

While the Elders fully support the current US efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiating table, they also encourage the European Union to play a stronger and more independent role in the region. As Israel’s main trading partner, Europe has the potential to alter the current stalemate by making clear the distinction between Israel within the pre-1967 borders and Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Settlements are considered illegal under international law, a point of principle the European Union has repeatedly stated. The EU has also repeatedly urged Israel to “immediately end all settlement activity”. Yet, a recent report by NGOs revealed that Europe currently imports 15 times as much from the Israeli settlements as it does from the Palestinians.

“By trading with settlements, Europe is inadvertently shoring up their economic viability and contributing to their permanence,” Martti Ahtisaari and Mary Robinson wrote in The Guardian in December. “It is also stifling the chances of economic development in the West Bank, undermining the billions the EU is investing in Palestinian state-building.”

Several measures on settlement trade are currently being discussed by the 27 EU members, including the introduction of EU-wide labelling guidelines for settlement goods imported into Europe. Proper labelling, as already implemented in the UK and Denmark, would protect European consumers’ rights to accurate information by allowing them to distinguish what is manufactured in Israel from products originating in illegal settlements, such as dates, avocados and cosmetics.

The Elders have been supporting this move, which they see as a small but concrete step to help put the Green Line back on the political map and thus revive the two-state solution.

Many Palestinians and some Israelis share the same hope and call on Europe to take action on settlement products labelling. Their voices, including those of Semma Quran, from Ramallah-based NGO “Palestinians for dignity”, Avrum Burg, former Speaker of the Knesset, and Alon Liel, former Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, are featured in the video “Labelling Israeli settlement products will help put the Green Line back on the map.”

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