A senior European Commission official told Israel’s envoy that an EU official’s critical statement issued earlier this week on Israeli settlements does not reflect the opinion of the commission, Israeli newspapers reported Thursday.
The original statement said, the commission believes Israel’s settlement policy is strangling the Palestinian economy and makes the Palestinian authority more dependent on foreign aid — the burden of which falls on the European taxpayers. The EU is one of the largest donors to the Palestinian authority.
Israel’s envoy to the EU, Ran Curiel, met Wednesday in Brussels with a senior European Commission official. The official told Curiel that the statement was released by the head of operations at the European Commission’s office in east Jerusalem, without the knowledge of EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, local news service Ynet reported.
Senior Deputy Director-General of Israeli Foreign Ministry Rafi Barak summonsed EU ambassador Ramiro Cibrian Uzal to the ministry to protest the statement on Tuesday.
The European Commission has given instruction to take the statement off all official EU websites, the daily Jerusalem Post said.
According to a report recently released by Israeli Information Center for Human Rights, an Israeli rights group, the Israeli settlements have taken 1.7 percent of the West Bank land. But some experts believe the settlements’ broad municipal boundaries and their regional councils mean that in fact, settlements control more than 40 percent of West Bank land.