Linda Gradstein
The Media Line
February 27, 2013 - 12:00am
http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=37232


A non-binding report by the European Union’s (EU) consuls general in East Jerusalem and Ramallah harshly criticizes Israel for undermining the possibility of an independent Palestinian state by expanding what it calls “settlement” construction. It calls Israel’s policy “systematic, deliberate and provocative” and calls for stepped-up European sanctions.

The report focuses on eastern Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967, and which Israel maintains must remain the united capital of Israel. Palestinians say east Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

“Israel is actively perpetuating its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem by systematically undermining the Palestinian presence through restrictive zoning and planning, demolitions and evictions, discriminatory access to religious sites, an inequitable education policy…..However “settlement” construction remains the biggest threat to the two-state solution,” according to the report, which was obtained by The Media Line.

The report says that construction in southern Jerusalem near Bethlehem, specifically the expansion of Har Homa, Gilo and Givat Hamatos will “form an Israeli buffer that once complete will virtually cut off Jerusalem’s southern flank from Bethlehem and the southern West Bank.”

It calls for sanctions on any bodies and organizations involved in the building on post-1967 land including eastern Jerusalem.

Israeli officials responded tartly to the report’s conclusions.

“A diplomat’s mission is to build bridges and bring people together, not to foster confrontation,” Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told The Media Line. “These diplomats have evidently failed at this mission.”

Palestinian legislator Dr. Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the report and called on EU countries to implement it.
“With Israel's most recent escalation of settlement activities in and around Jerusalem, the rise of “settler” violence and Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian rights, it is of utmost urgency for European countries to follow this courageous assessment with concrete and tangible steps and with punitive measures,” stressed Dr. Ashrawi.
“Therefore, we call on the European Union, whether as individual countries or collectively, to stand up to Israel and implement bold initiatives that demand European divestment from settlements and settlement products.  Israel’s settlement campaign is the single most significant threat to the two-state solution, and now is the time to exercise the political will that is required to hold Israel accountable before any and all chances for peace are destroyed,” she said.
The report was first published in the Ha’aretz newspaper.

“We don’t respond to leaked reports,” David Kriss, the press and information manager for the EU delegation in Israel told The Media Line but added, “The EU’s longstanding position is that settlements are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace.”

The report, although non-binding, comes just three weeks before President Obama arrives in the region. Although US officials have tried to downplay expectations, and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said the visit will focus on Iran and Syria, many expect that President Obama will try to revive some kind of Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He could pressure Israel to freeze building in post-1967 areas.

In the past, Netanyahu did agree to a partial freeze but has never agreed to stop building in eastern Jerusalem.

Privately, Israeli officials say that the consuls issue a similar report each year, which the EU often ignores when it makes its policy decisions.

“In Brussels (home of the EU) they take it for what it is, the seasonal anti-Israel report,” said a senior Israeli official. “But we are concerned that the fact that such a report can be circulated creates a negative buzz.”




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