European Union Representative to the Palestinian Authority Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff sounded the alarm during a visit to the West Bank, saying time is running out on the two-state solution with Israel.
Burgsdorff led an EU delegation of representatives of more than 20 European countries Sunday on a visit to the former Qalandia airport north of Jerusalem.
He was referring to two settlement construction announcements by Israel. One is a plan to build close to 3,500 housing units near the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, in the area known as E1. The other controversial construction announcement is the 9,000 homes planned for the Atarot area of east Jerusalem on the site of what was once the Qalandiya airport, which opened in 1924 and closed in 2000.
Palestinians have said they want to see an airport for their future state at that site. The projects are illegal and against international law, Palestinian officials say, adding that they will end any possibility for a contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Burgsdorff told reporters that the Israeli plans defy international law and destabilize the status quo. “Israeli settlements are in clear violation of international law and constitute a major obstacle to a just, last[ing] and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” he explained, adding that the EU can’t “close its eyes” to the projects.
Ahmed Rafiq Awad, president of the Jerusalem Center for Future Studies at Al-Quds University, said that the statement made by Burgsdorff is welcomed by Palestinians, “but it must be translated into actions.”
“These are statements made for public consumption, this is not enough; we need this to be translated into actions. By pressuring Israel politically and supporting the Palestinians,” he said.
He said the EU “must translate this into sanctions against Israel, besiege settlements, delegitimize the Israeli occupation and recognize the Palestinian state.”
Israeli journalist-turned-political analyst Eli Nissan said that there is nothing new in the statements by the delegation from the European Union.
“The European Union does not recognize the unity of the city, which is under the control of Israel and, according to Israeli law, the city is united forever,” he said.
Nissan criticized Burgsdorff’s statements, saying that they were “incorrect,” and that the envoy “does not know the new reality in the region, and he expresses a political position in opposition to Israel.”
“If the EU continues with its lip service, then this is hypocritical. The EU can’t hold the stick from the middle – support Israel and appease the Palestinians with words,” said Rafiq Awad.
Last month, the U.S. called the construction plans “unacceptable.” The harsh criticism by President Joe Biden’s administration and its condemnation is some of the strongest in years on Israel.
“There is a difference between the American and European position,” said Nissan, adding that “the U.S. and Israel are on the same page and Washington understands that Israel is obliged to continue settlements in the West Bank because there is natural growth.”
Rafiq Awad says Israeli policy is “killing” the two-state solution. Nissan agrees. “This is correct. In this government, I do not hear anyone calling for a two-state solution. Do not talk about the establishment of a Palestinian state next to an Israeli state. The Palestinians want Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders, this will not happen,” he said.
Biden made a campaign pledge to reopen the diplomatic mission for the Palestinians in Jerusalem, which was closed under his predecessor. But so far, no date has been given for a reopening.
“The U.S. administration, like the European Union, gives you lip service without action. Washington must play a strong and effective role and quickly, or else things will get worse. If the U.S. position does not change by the end of the year, it is very possible that things will explode,” said Rafiq Awad.
Written by Mohammad Al-Kassim and republished with permission from The Media Line.