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Settlements provocative, asserts EU

Last Updated : Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:48 PM

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — European diplomats have censured Israel for building settlements on the occupied Palestinian lands by describing the effort as provocative. Further colonization of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, threatens the plan of creating a Palestinian state and could make unrealizable a settlement of the conflict with Palestinians, EU diplomats pointed out in a report, Wednesday The diplomats recommended that the 27 EU member-states should forgo financial operations to shore up Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Construction in East Jerusalem is a deliberate strategy to prevent the city from becoming capital of two states, the internal EU report said, urging members to block funding for any settlement activities.

Written by the EU heads of mission in occupied Jerusalem and Ramallah, the strongly-worded report described Israel’s settlement construction in East Jerusalem as “systematic, deliberate and provocative”, accusing the Jewish state of making deliberate political choices that threaten to render the two-state solution impossible.

An Israel spokesman dismissed the report, saying it showed that the Europeans had failed in their diplomatic mission.

“A diplomat’s mission is to build bridges and not to encourage confrontation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP. “These consuls have failed in their diplomatic mission.”

But the Palestinians hailed the report, with senior official Hanan Ashrawi saying it was a “responsible assessment” of Israeli actions in East Jerusalem. “It is ringing an alarm concerning the destructive nature of the Israeli policies and its dangerous implications for peace,” she said.

“We hope that this report will be adopted by Brussels and implemented individually and collectively in concrete and tangible steps to hold Israel accountable,” she said.

Relations between Israel and the EU have been unusually tense in recent months, with Europe voicing anger over a swathe of Israeli plans for more than 5,000 new settler homes in East Jerusalem.

In the 15-page report, EU diplomats flagged construction on the southern flank of East Jerusalem — in Har Homa, Gilo and Givat HaMatos — as being the “most significant and problematic” saying that if it continued unabated, it would likely cut the area off from Bethlehem by the end of the year.

“The construction of these three settlements is part of a political strategy aiming at making it impossible for Jerusalem to become the capital of two states,” it warned.

The report also highlighted Israel’s plans to build 3,426 units in E1 — a deeply sensitive strip of West Bank land east of Jerusalem, saying if implemented, it would effectively cut the West Bank in half.

It was the decision to build in E1 as a punishment for the Palestinians winning upgraded membership at the United Nations that saw Europe’s frustration peak late last year, sparking Israeli fears that the EU could call for economic sanctions.

The 27-member bloc is Israel’s largest import and export market and accounts for about a third of the Jewish state’s total trade. — Agencie

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