EU: Israel’s E. Jerusalem policy endangers final-status talks

The European Union’s diplomatic representatives have sharply criticized Israel’s policies in East Jerusalem, saying it is using settlements and the West Bank separation fence to create a „de facto annexation of Palestinian land,” American and British newspapers reported Friday. The unpublished report warns that the Israeli measures „are reducing the possibility of reaching a final-status agreement on Jerusalem that any Palestinian could accept,” The New York Times reported. According to the Times, the report recommends that European officials take a more aggressive stance toward Israeli policies in East Jerusalem, such as holding political meetings with Palestinian ministers in East Jerusalem instead of the West Bank and asking Israel to „halt discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, especially concerning working permits, building permits, house demolitions, taxation and expenditure.” The document, written by British consulate officials in East Jerusalem as part of Britain’s presidency of the European Union, was presented Monday to an EU council of ministers meeting led by Britain’s foreign minister, Jack Straw, according to the Guardian. It said the EU council’s discussion of the matter was postponed until next month at the behest of Italy. Haaretz reported earlier this week that the EU had decided to delay releasing the report in the wake of the recent warming of ties between Israel and Europe. Marc Otte, the EU’s Mideast envoy, played down the report, telling the Times that it was a routine response to a request to keep foreign ministers apprised of trends in East Jerusalem. EU foreign ministers discussed the Middle East in a meeting Monday and decided to express „grave concern” over Israel’s activities in East Jerusalem and its environs, including establishing settlements, constructing the West Bank separation fence and demolishing homes. According to the EU, such Israeli activities minimize the chance for a final-status agreement over Jerusalem, threaten to make any solution based on the coexistence of two states impossible, and conflict with international law. In general, the report asserts, „prospects for a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine are receding,” the Times said. The report also warned that Israel’s actions could „radicalize” Arabs living in East Jerusalem. „Palestinians are deeply alarmed about East Jerusalem,” the report said. „They fear that Israel will ‘get away with it,’ under the cover of disengagement. Israeli measures also risk radicalizing the hitherto relatively quiescent Palestinian population of East Jerusalem.” The report said „Israeli activities in Jerusalem are in violation of both its Roadmap obligations and international law,” citing the Israeli plan to link Jerusalem with the nearby settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. That plan, the report said, „threatens to complete the encircling of the city by Jewish settlements, dividing the West Bank into two separate geographical areas.” The report also said the separation fence was being used to expropriate Palestinian land, the Guardian reported. „This de facto annexation of Palestinian land will be irreversible without very large-scale forced evacuations of settlers and the re-routing of the barrier,” the document said. The spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Mark Regev, told the Guardian: „Israel believes that Jerusalem should remain the united capital of Israel. At the same time, Israel has committed itself that Jerusalem is one of those final-status issues.”