An international law professor at Cambridge University recently advised European governments that they would not be in violation of the law if they decided to ban trade with Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, according to a report in The Independent on Monday.
The formal opinion from Professor James Crawford "is likely to inject fresh momentum into campaigns in the United Kingdom and elsewhere for a ban, at a time when some EU member states are examining ways of hardening their position on the imports of settlement produce," The Independent said.
The EU has upheld the position that settlements in Judea and Samaria are illegal under international law.
Crawford's opinion challenges previous assumptions that a European ban on imports of settlement products or a ban on banks from financing settlement activity would contravene European or global trade law.
Crawford's opinion, which was shown to EU senior officials in recent months and seen by The Independent, says that "there do not appear to be any EC laws which could be breached by a member state taking the decision to ban the import of settlement produce on public policy grounds."
The professor claims that EU members states who want to block the import of goods from the settlements could "have recourse" to the EU's Association Agreement with Israel, which holds that the agreement "shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles," The Independent reported.
He says that if European countries were to implement such a ban on trade with the settlements, the EU would not be in violation of its World Trade Organization obligations since, "as a matter of international law, the West Bank and Gaza cannot be considered to be Israel's territory."
The U.K. Trades Union Congress is set to publish Crawford's opinion this week, according to The Independent. The organization has made several efforts to implement a ban on settlement trade, but considers it to be distinct from a boycott of Israel, which it says it does not support.
Crawford's opinion rejects arguments that EU member states are obliged to enforce a ban on settlement trade.
However, it suggests that states that choose to directly buy produce from settlements or to provide financial assistance to them, for example, could be subject to penalties under international law.