EU Seeks Talks With Israel Over Red Lines’ in West Bank

Israeli officials fear that proposed negotiations are prelude to further European sanctions.

In this December 5, 2012 file photo, a general view of Givat Hamatos area is seen in East Jerusalem.
In this December 5, 2012 file photo, a general view of Givat Hamatos area is seen in East Jerusalem. AP

The European Union is interested in opening negotiations with Israel with the aim of preventing a series of Israeli moves in the West Bank deemed “red lines” which may jeopardize the possibility of a future Palestinian state alongside Israel, an internal EU document obtained by Haaretz reveals. Officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry are concerned the negotiations are a prelude to further European sanctions against Israel.

In recent weeks, since the Israeli appropriation of 4,000 dunams in Gush Etzion in the West Bank and even more since the push forward in planning for additional construction in Givat Hamatos, a neighborhood beyond the Green Line, a series of discussions have been taking place in the EU’s headquarters in Brussels between the ambassadors of the 28 members states over the European response.

During these discussions, which ended last weekend, it was decided to relay a sharp message to Israel in the name of all EU members, focusing on the Israeli moves which create a “focused and increasing threat to the possibility of the two-state solution.”

The EU’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, is set to relay the message to Israel. He is expected to meet in the coming days with Foreign Ministry Director Nissim Ben Sheetrit and with national security advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office Yossi Cohen to propose negotiations over the issues which raised the EU’s concerns.

Haaretz obtained an internal EU document with instructions as to the content of the message Ambassador Faaborg-Andersen is supposed to relay to the ministry’s officials and to the Prime Minister’s Office.

“The EU considers the preservation of the two state solution a priority,” the document reads. “The only way to resolve the conflict is through an agreement that ends the occupation which began in 1967, that ends all claims and fulfills the aspirations of both parties. A one state reality would not be compatible with these aspirations.”

The two-page document defines several of the EU’s “red lines” regarding Israeli actions in the West Bank:

1. Construction in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood, beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem: The document said that construction in that area would jeopardize the possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. The EU “cautions the Israeli government not to move ahead with tenders and construction. Such a development would constitute one more grave “fact on the ground” which would be liable to crucially prejudge the outcome of peace negotiations,” the document reads.

2. Construction in the E1 area between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem: The document said construction in that area would also jeopardize the possibility of contiguous Palestinian state, and added that it has already publicly and strongly opposed plans for E1’s development.

3. Further construction in the Har Homa neighborhood in Jerusalem, beyond the Green Line.

4. Israeli plans to relocate 12,000 Bedouin without their consent in a new town in the Jordan Valley, expelling them from lands in the West Bank, including E1: “The EU strongly urges Israel to put these plans on hold and search for other solutions together with the concerned populations and the Palestinian Authority. The EU underlines that implementing those plans may amount to a serious breach of International Humanitarian Law (IV Geneva Convention),” the document reads.

5. Harming the status-quo at the Temple Mount: The document said that attempts to challenge the status-quo have led to instability in East Jerusalem and increased tensions. A top European diplomat noted that EU states consuls in East Jerusalem and in Ramallah planned to hold a joint tour of Temple Mount, but aborted their plans following instructions from Brussels, fearing Israel would consider such a visit a provocation.

According to the document, the EU ambassador in Israel was instructed to clarify to the Foreign Ministry director and to the national security advisor that the EU is interested in holding “thorough discussion” on these and other issues related to the occupied Palestinian territories. “…there is a legitimate expectation to have a constructive dialogue with the Israeli authorities on measures from their side which may impact on our assistance and its ultimate objectives of creating a sound enabling environment for economic and social development in the occupied Palestinian territories and contributing to create the conditions for a viable Palestinian state,” the documents reads.

Red lines still vague

Senior European diplomats noted that in the discussions in Brussels the European “red lines” in the West Bank to be posed to the Israelis during negotiations have yet to be fully defined, if at all, and what would the repercussions for crossing them would be.

“Some countries, first of which is France, believe Israel must be presented with specific sanctions to be leveled if Israel takes specific actions so that there won’t be any surprises and the price is clear,” a senior European diplomat said.

“However, this issue is still under discussion and no final decision has been made.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry has followed the EU preparations to up the tone against Israel for several weeks. In discussions held over the issue in the ministry on Tuesday the expectation was floated that the message relayed by the EU ambassador would be the opening shot ahead of new European sanctions against the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“The negotiations the EU is offering are really the hearing before the sentence,” a senior official in the ministry said.

“We have a feeling they’re expecting us to reject the offer for negotiations and give them an excuse to push the sanctions against us, or that we’ll agree in any case to negotiations in which we’ll discuss which sanctions will be leveled,” he added.

EU ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen refused to comment.