Wednesday 28 September 2016

Israel pulls out of peace talks in EU labelling row

Ian Deitch

Published 30/11/2015 | 02:30

A Palestinian protester returns a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Bet El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah
A Palestinian protester returns a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops during clashes near the Jewish settlement of Bet El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah

Israel has suspended contacts with European Union representatives on Middle East peace talks in protest at the EU's decision to label Israeli exports from the West Bank.

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The decision, which deepened a split with the EU over the labelling issue, came as a rash of Palestinian attacks showed no signs of relenting.

In yesterday's violence, Palestinians carried out two new stabbing attacks - wounding a woman and a police officer. One of the assailants was shot dead.

Israel has been up in arms since the EU announced this month that goods produced in Israeli settlements must have special labels and cannot say they were made in Israel.

Israel has said the decision is discriminatory and unfairly singles out Israel, while the EU says it is a technical matter to clarify the origins of the products.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered contacts frozen until a "reassessment process is completed".

The peace process with the Palestinians broke down early last year, so the practical implications of the announcement are not immediately clear.

Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war from Jordan and began building settlements soon after.

The Palestinians claim both territories as parts of a future state, a position that has global support.

Israel has linked the EU move to a growing international boycott movement.

The EU says it opposes boycotts, and says its move is a matter of consumer protection. Settlement products, including agricultural goods, olive oil, cosmetics and wines, make up a tiny percentage of Israeli exports to Europe.

The EU labelling move has come during a two-month spate of Palestinian attacks that shows no signs of ending.

In the latest bloodshed, Israeli police reported a pair of stabbings yesterday.

In one instance, a 38-year-old Palestinian man yelled "God is greatest" before stabbing an Israeli policeman at Jerusalem's Old City before officers shot and killed him.

Hours later, a Palestinian stabbed a woman in the back as she waited at a Jerusalem bus stop. The woman, a foreign national identified by media as Nepalese, was evacuated to a hospital.

Police said they found the attacker - a teenage boy - hiding at a nearby construction site.

Irish Independent

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