By Martin Banks - 19th September 2012
Parliament's Socialist MEPs say the EU "must continue" to object to the "illegal" Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The vote by the international trade committee is inconsistent with EU foreign policy
The S&D group, parliament's second biggest political grouping, demanded that the all-party international trade committee delays giving its consent to a protocol in the planned association agreement between the EU and Israel for at least two years.
This is because the S&D say the deal could grant "preferential" access to Israeli industrial products to the EU market regardless of whether they have been produced on Israeli soil or in the occupied territory.
The S&D said it "regrets" that a majority of members of the international trade committee voted on Tuesday in favour of giving consent to such an agreement.
The group said it will request the inclusion of a declaration on this in a legislative report before it is voted by the parliamentary plenary in Strasbourg in October.
This could dictate how the European commission intends to implement the agreement.
Portuguese S&D MEP Vital Moreira, author of the parliamentary proposal to suspend for two years the vote, said, "The vote by the international trade committee is inconsistent with EU foreign policy.
"Enhancing EU's trade partnership with Israel at this time would undermine the Union's firm condemnation of Israeli policy to the Palestinians, particularly the blockade of Gaza. This amounts to a collective punishment of the whole population.
"The continuation of settlements in the occupied territory and the isolation of East Jerusalem cannot continue. We want an end to breaches of fundamental rights of the Palestinians, namely the right to their land, freedom of movement, freedom to work, and, of course, their right to self-determination. Therefore, de facto upgrading relations with Israel at this time is not appropriate.
"Since there are no signs of policy change on Israel's side, we proposed a two year delay before we take a definitive decision on the agreement. In this time we had hoped Israel would change its policy towards Gaza, illegal settlements, and the peace process"
His comments were echoed by French S&D vice-president Véronique de Keyser who said, "We are in favour of strong relations with Israel, but these relations must be based on fairness and on respect for international law.
"We regret that the international trade committee has called for this agreement to be passed.
"The S&D will now call for an interpretative declaration, stating very clearly that products produced in the occupied territory cannot be considered 'lawfully traded' and therefore cannot be part of this trade agreement.
"Anything else would be giving up EU's international obligations and respect for UN resolutions."