EU Slams Israeli Moves in East Jerusalem

Europe must resume ministerial-level meetings with representatives of the Palestinian Authority in East Jerusalem, as part of other political meetings that should be held there, a new European Union report recommends.

The publication of the report, prepared by European heads of mission in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, was initially delayed, as Aluf Benn reported in Haaretz on November 23.

The report, a copy of which has been obtained by Haaretz, states that "Israeli policies are reducing the possibility of reaching a final status agreement on Jerusalem that any Palestinian could accept."

The report also concludes that Israel is striving to reduce the Palestinian population in Jerusalem. But the report is mainly a detailed summary of Israeli actions in Jerusalem: expanding settlements, housing settlers in Palestinian neighborhoods, continued construction of the separation wall/fence, limiting Palestinian construction, etc. Most of the information has previously appeared in the Israeli press.

The Palestinians, the end of the report states, "fear that Israel will `get away with it,' under the cover of disengagement." Israel's actions in Jerusalem also contravene both its road map commitments and international law.

The report reiterates the European position that annexation of East Jerusalem is illegal, and any construction there is illegal, therefore they are careful to define what Israel considers "neighborhoods" as illegal settlements (such as Gilo, Pisgat Ze'ev, Ramot and French Hill).

The report devotes three chapters to what it describes as the discriminatory policy of the Jerusalem Municipality toward Palestinian residents. The chapter on Ma'aleh Adumim states: "The E1 project would cut across the main central traffic route for Palestinians traveling from Bethlehem to Ramallah. This route is actually an alternative to route 60, which until 2001 was the main north-south highway connecting the major Palestinian cities."

"The current built-up area of Ma'aleh Adumim covers only 15 percent of the planned area. The overall plan for Ma'aleh Adumim, including E1, covers an area of at least 53 square kilometers (larger than Tel Aviv) stretching from Jerusalem to Jericho (comment: Israel's defense of settlement expansion `within existing settlement boundaries' therefore covers a potentially huge area)."

The chapter on settlement building in East Jerusalem states that the EU position, shared by most of the international community, that East Jerusalem's annexation and its settlements are illegal "does not deter Israel from expanding them. Some of these settlements are now expanding beyond even the Israeli-defined municipal boundary of Jerusalem."

"Smaller in number but of equal concern are settlements being implanted in the heart of existing Palestinian neighborhoods, with covert and overt government assistance. Extremist Jewish settler groups, often with foreign funding, use a variety of means to take over Palestinian properties and land. They either prey on Palestinians suffering financial hardship or simply occupy properties by force and rely on the occasional tardiness and/or connivance of the Israeli courts. Such groups have told us that they also press the Israeli authorities to demolish Palestinian homes built without permits."

"There are also plans to build a large new Jewish settlement within the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, a step that would be particularly inflammatory and could lead to further `Hebronization' of Jerusalem. The aim of these settlers, and settlements, is to extend the Jewish Israeli presence into new areas. As a result, President Clinton's formula for Jerusalem (`what's Jewish becomes Israel and what's Palestinian becomes Palestine') - either cannot be applied - or Israel gets more."

Regarding the separation fence, the report states: "Combined with settlement activity in these areas this de facto annexation of Palestinian land will be irreversible without very large-scale forced evacuations of settlers and the rerouting of the barrier... [The barrier] will also block the alternative Bethlehem-Ramallah route for Palestinians, forcing them to travel via tunnels to Jericho.