The apology was issued after EU Ambassador to Israel Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal [photo] was reprimanded by Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry Rafi Barak. A senior Commission official told Ambassador Kuriel that the statement released by the head of Operations at the European Commission's office in east Jerusalem (ECTAO), Roy Dickinson, was issued without the knowledge of EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.
The Foreign Ministry said in response that it was satisfied was the apology.
Ambassador Kuriel stressed the severity with which Israel sees Dickinson's statement, saying that the issue was not only the lack of diplomatic manners but also the clear deviation from the Commission's stated role, "which is to coordinate aid with the Palestinians, not arrogantly criticize Israel."
Kuriel was assured that an official communiqué had been issued to clarify that the earlier statement did not reflect the Commission's position.
The original statement caused a storm in Israel and Europe after it was released last Monday. According to the statement, the Commission believes Israel's settlement policy is strangling the Palestinian economy and makes the Palestinian government more dependent on foreign aid – the burden of which falls on the European taxpayer. The European Union is one of the largest donors to the Palestinian Authority.
According to the EU, expropriation of fertile land for Israeli settlements, roads that serve only settlers, and West Bank checkpoints help constrain Palestinian economic growth and make the Palestinian government more dependent on aid.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak called the Commission out for ignoring a recent World Bank report indicating an improvement in the Palestinian economy. "The Mideast Quartet (US, Russia, EU and the UN) welcomed Israel's plans to improve the Palestinian economy, and recognizes Israel's right to security," the Defense Ministry said.
"Thanks to the cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, 140 (West Bank) roadblocks have been removed over the past few months. These measures may double the growth rate of the Palestinian economy from 5 to 10%. Unfortunately, all of these details were omitted from the European Commission's statement."