Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Arieh King and a number of right-wing activists prevented Monday European Union ambassadors from holding a press a conference in a Jerusalem neighborhood located over the Green Line to protest the decision to start construction there.
The ambassadors, headed by the EU’s representative to the Palestinians, Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff, came to Givat Hamatos to express EU countries' disapproval of the Israel Lands Authority's decision to start the bidding process for the construction of 1,257 housing units in the neighborhood.
The international community generally views Givat Hamatos as a red line because construction in the neighborhood would make it much harder to divide Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians in the future. The delegation arrived at the site and found about 10 right-wing activists headed by King and another member of the Jerusalem city council, Yonatan Yosef. The activists shouted at the diplomats: “Antisemites go home,” “Antisemites go back to Europe” and “the European Union supports terrorism.” They did not allow them to hold the press conference.
The delegation left the site and held the press conference later near the EU’s offices in the capital's Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. Kuehn von Burgsdorff said Israel is a democratic and free society and people can protest but added that regrettably, they were unable to hold a normal dialogue with the protesters.
Kuehn von Burgsdorff said that the ambassadors only learned about the decision to publish the call for bids the day before, and it was the first time in years that such a large plan was advanced in Palestinian territory, according to international law. He said they decided to come and see what it was all about for themselves.
He added that they were very worried because if the new neighborhood is built, then in a few years, thousands of people will live there and any connection between Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories in the West Bank will be very difficult. He said they were there because of the importance of preserving the hope for an independent and free Palestinian state that will live in peace alongside Israel. Any addition of settlers on Palestinian land will undermine this hope, he said.
Kuehn von Burgsdorff said the timing of the bidding process raised the suspicion among part of the international community that Israel is trying to establish facts on the ground before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden enters the White House. The international community must apply pressure to Israel so it will rescind the decision to call for bids, he said.