EU considering east Jerusalem observers
In confidential report, consuls-general suggest having EU officials present at site of imminent house demolitions or evictions in capital and intervene if non-violent Palestinians face arrest. 'Jewish settlement activity is making a two-state solution to the conflict increasingly difficult,' they warn
In a new confidential report published by British newspaper Independent on Monday, 25 EU consuls-general in Jerusalem say the Jewish settlement activity in east Jerusalem jeopardizes the two-state solution and complicated the conflict in the region.
They suggest strengthening the EU's support for the Palestinian residents, explaining that "Israel has left Palestinian neighborhoods ever more isolated" and "by legal and practical means, is actively pursuing its annexation by systematically undermining the Palestinian presence in the city."
The consuls-general – who are the ambassador-level representatives to the Palestinian Authority – suggest that in addition to being present when houses are demolished, they should attend court hearings dealing with demolitions or evictions and "ensure EU intervention when Palestinians are arrested or intimidated by Israeli authorities for peaceful cultural, social or political activities in east Jerusalem".
Using markedly stronger language than EU ministers use in public when criticizing Israel, the document states, according to the Independent: "If current trends are not stopped as a matter of urgency, the prospect of east Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state becomes increasingly unlikely and unworkable. This, in turn, seriously endangers the chances of a sustainable peace on the basis of two states, with Jerusalem as their future capital."
Bulldozers outside Shepherd Hotel, Sunday (Photo: AP)
The document adds that the cumulative effect of Israeli policy towards east Jerusalem Palestinians – including settlement building, demolitions and evictions, but also "restrictive zoning and planning, ongoing demolitions and evictions, an inequitable education policy, difficult access to health care, the inadequate provision of resources and investment" continue to "negatively affect" Palestinian life.
The consuls-general conclude that "the wider political consequences of the above measures are of great concern. Over the past few years the changes to the city have run counter to the peace process. Attempts to exclusively emphasize the Jewish identity of the city threaten its religious diversity and radicalize the conflict, with potential regional and global repercussions."
Meanwhile, residents of Ras al-Amud reported Monday morning that bulldozers and municipality inspectors were preparing to destroy illegal homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood. The police confirmed sending forces to secure the demolition, but the municipality denied that it was planning to implement any demolition orders.
"We do not deliver information on demolitions in advance," a municipality official said.
"We started the year on the wrong foot," said Jerusalem Councilmember Meir Margalit (Meretz).
"In the first days of the year the number of demolitions exceeds what we have seen in recent years. It's usually not customary to demolish homes at the beginning of January as the municipal budget has yet to be agreed on and it's unclear how much money has been allotted to this purpose. It's surprising that they started it without an approved budget."
The Shepherd Hotel in east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was demolished Sunday morning by the Jewish developer who purchased the land after receiving a building permit from the municipality at the beginning of the year for the construction of a new Jewish neighborhood at the site. Some 20 housing units are expected to be built in the area.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that Israel's move to proceed with the east Jerusalem settlement project by razing a derelict hotel undermined the peace effort.
"This disturbing development undermines peace efforts to achieve the two-state solution," Clinton said in a statement in Abu Dhabi, where she is on an official visit.
"In particular, this move contradicts the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of Jerusalem."
European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton described the demolished compound as a Palestinian symbol.
Ashton said in a statement that she strongly condemns the demolition of the Shepherd Hotel and the future construction of "an illegal settlement." She noted settlements were illegal according to International Law.
The UK also condemned the step. "The British Government reaffirms its strong, long-standing opposition to the creation of this new illegal settlement in occupied East Jerusalem and condemns today’s demolition in Sheikh Jarrah," a statement on behalf of the British Foreign Office noted.
"This latest settlement activity does not help – on the contrary, it raises tensions unnecessarily," Britain's Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said.
Ronen Medzini and news agencies contributed to this report
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