The EU on 18 November criticised Israel for its insistence on extending the controversial 'security fence' and the export of goods from the Occupied Territories. In a strongly worded statement from the EU's external relations office, the organisation reaffirmed its position on the barrier, saying that it was detrimental to thousands of Palestinians and will be a major obstacle to a two state peace settlement. The EU also said that Israeli exports benefiting from the EU-Israel free trade agreement do not include produce from settlements in the Occupied Territories, a point that Israel refuses to accept. EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said that the EU's patience was coming to an end and the issue was an 'aggravation and irritant'. He added, 'patience has been given a whole new meaning by the way we have tried to deal with this issue'. Only about $7m out of Israeli's total exports of $22,000 are affected by this issue.
Israel responded to the criticism by saying that relations between Israel and the EU were as strong as ever. 'The partnership and co-operation [between Israel and the EU] when you look at the figures and span of activities, cannot be described as being in crisis,' Israeli ambassador to the EU Oded Eran told the BBC's Europe Today programme. 'There is a wish on both sides to have co-operation with the EU and with our neighbours - When you look at the values that are shared by the Israeli and EU societies it is almost impossible not to have a deepening of relations.'