Five EU States Lodge Joint Protest With Israel Expropriation of West Bank Land

Britain, France, Italy, and Spain and deputy ambassador of Germany tell National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen that decision is 'very bad... in a terrible timing and that we hope it will be reversed.'

An Israeli settlement in the Etzion bloc, in the West Bank, April 2014.
An Israeli settlement in the Etzion bloc, in the West Bank, April 2014. Eyal Toueg

Envoys of five European countries have submitted a joint official protest to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office against the land expropriation in the West Bank that the government announced last week.

The ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy, and Spain, and the deputy ambassador of Germany delivered the written protest to National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen during a meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday, and stressed that Israel’s declaration of nearly 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres) of land in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem, as state land had greatly angered the countries of the European Union.

“We gave him a clear message that it was a very bad decision, in a terrible timing and that we hope it will be reversed,” a European diplomat said.

Cohen told the ambassadors that there are heavy political pressures within the government to expedite construction in the settlements and that there were elements in the coalition that wanted far broader moves than just expropriating land. A diplomat familiar with the content of the meeting quoted Cohen as saying that the expropriation was not irreversible and that more than 30 days remained for Palestinians who believe the plan damages them to file objections. However, the diplomat said, Cohen did not give the impression that the government was going to accede to the European and American requests to rescind the decision.

The Civil Administration’s announcement of the land expropriation on August 31 said it came at the order of the top political echelons and was a response to the kidnapping and murder of Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel, and Gilad Shaar in June. The expropriation is apparently aimed at creating territorial contiguity between the Green Line and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

The decision angered Washington and Europe and led to public condemnations from several countries. In conversations that Cohen and other officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau had with senior American officials last week, the Israelis said that their office was surprised by the announcement, which they said Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had not coordinated with them.

Ya’alon’s office confirmed that no update had been sent in advance to the Prime Minister’s Office, but stressed that there was no need for an update because it was merely a technical procedure.

Senior Israeli officials have noted that none of the land in question is under private Palestinian ownership.