Settlements - AP - Sept 27, 2010
Instead of settlement construction, the international community should focus on the injustices of the occupation. Photo by AP
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A group of 26 senior former European leaders who held power during the past decade are calling for strong measures against Israel in response to its settlement policy and refusal to abide by international law.

In an unusual letter sent Thursday to the leadership of the European Union and the governments of the EU's 27 member states, the signatories, including former heads of state, ministers and heads of European organizations, criticize Israel's policies.

Among those signing the letter are the former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, former German President Richard von Weizsacker, former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales, former president of the EU Commission and former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and former Irish President Mary Robinson.

The group drew up a series of recommendations to the current EU leadership during a meeting in London in mid-November.

The sharply worded document joins a decision by the governments of South American countries, including Brazil and Argentina, to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. In addition, the European Union Council has decided to support the Palestinian Authority's decision to establish an independent state and put an end to the occupation.

The letter's timing is also related to an announcement by the U.S. administration about the failure of the negotiations with Israel on extending the freeze on settlement construction. The former European leaders note that key American figures had suggested to them that the best way to help U.S. President Barack Obama in his efforts to promote peace was to make policy that contradicts U.S. positions come at a cost to Israel.

The European leaders are backing the Palestinians' efforts to rally international support for the recognition of an independent Palestinian state as an alternative to the negotiations that have reached an impasse. They note that the Palestinians cannot expect to be able to set up an independent state without international political and economic assistance.

As such, they are calling on the European Union to play a more effective and active role vis-a-vis the United States, Israel and others. They also want it made clear that a European Union decision to upgrade relations with Israel and other bilateral agreements will be frozen unless Israel freezes settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

They also propose that the EU announce that it will not accept any unilateral changes to the 1967 border that Israel carried out against international law, and that the Palestinian state would cover an area the same size as the area occupied in 1967. This would also include the establishment of a capital in East Jerusalem.

The leaders recommend that the EU support only minor land swaps on which the two sides agree.