European FMs criticize Israel, settler violence (JERUSALEM POST) By HERB KEINON 05/15/12)
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Italy and the Netherlands toned down a statement on the Middle East
by EU foreign ministers Monday that, even with their intervention,
sharply criticized Israel and settlement violence.
According to Western diplomats, the two countries – led this time by
Italy – moderated some of the language in the three-page “Conclusions
on the Middle East Peace Process” that emerged following a monthly
meeting in Brussels.
They also made sure that certain elements favorable to Israel, such
as references to Palestinian incitement and Israel’s security needs,
The statement reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to a twostate solution
and said it was a “crucial element” for lasting peace and security in
Just two days before the EU meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu sent a letter to PA President Mahmoud Abbas affirming in
writing Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution. The Western
diplomat officials said the timing of that letter was most likely
linked to the EU foreign ministers’ meeting, and that the statement
welcomed “the exchange of letters between the parties.”
The officials said France, Britain and Germany shepherded the
conclusions through the EU, and it reflected the EU’s new Middle East
envoy Andreas Reinicke’s focus on maintaining the viability of a two-
state solution in face of what the Europeans are increasingly
concerned may be a closing window of opportunity.
“The viability of a two-state solution must be maintained,” the
statement read, “The EU expresses deep concern about developments on
the ground which threaten to make a two state solution impossible.”
The statement then enumerated acts it said Israel had taken that put
the two-state solution in jeopardy. These steps included:
• The marked acceleration of settlement construction since the end of
the 10-month moratorium in 2010.
• The formalization of the status of three outposts – Rehalim,
Bruchin and Sansana – and the proposal to relocate the Migron
residents to another hill “within the occupied Palestinian territory.”
• Evictions and house demolitions in east Jerusalem, expansion of
Givat Hamatos and Har Homa, and the “prevention of peaceful
Palestinian economic social or political activities.”
• Worsening the living condition of the Palestinians in Area C, and
limiting their ability to promote development there.
Reflecting an emphasis the EU has placed on Area C since career
German diplomat Reinicke took over his post in January, the statement
said this area is critical to the viability of a future Palestinian
state, and called upon Israel to approve Palestinian master plans
there, “halt forced transfer of population” and simplify
Area C represents 62 percent of the West Bank and is under full
“The EU will continue to provide financial assistance for Palestinian
development in Area C and expects such investment to be protected for
future use,” the statement read. “The EU will engage with the
government of Israel to work out improved mechanisms for the
implementation of the donor funded projects for the benefit of the
Palestinian population in Area C.”
One Israeli diplomatic official complained that a number of
individual EU countries have repeatedly asked Israel for
clarifications on policy in Area C, been given answers, and then
simply ignored the Israeli replies.
The Foreign Ministry issued a response to the EU’s statement saying
that they included “a long list of claims and criticism which are
based on a partial, biased and one-sided depiction of realities on
the ground. Such a public presentation does not contribute to advance
According to the statement, Israel “is committed to the well being of
the Palestinian population and acts according to all relevant
In Area C, for instance, 119 projects were authorized in 2011,
through continuous dialogue with representatives of countries and
The EU statement’s comment on settlement violence – expressing “deep
concern” and calling for Israel to bring perpetrators to justice –
raised eyebrows in Jerusalem because the instances of what had become
known as “price-tag” retaliation actions have dropped significantly
over the last few months. One government official said it seemed the
EU was using the same boilerplate comments they used in the past even
though the reality had changed.
Western diplomatic officials said that while the draft of the
conclusions have been in the works for weeks, Israel and the US “woke
up relatively late” in trying to influence the wording of the text.
While Italy and the Netherlands did the heavy lifting for Israel
inside the EU bodies drafting the conclusions, other countries that
frequently go to bat for Israel in EU forums, such as the Czech
Republic and Bulgaria, were less active this time. The officials said
this was due to the determination shown by the British, French and
especially the Germans in getting the wording passed.
The officials said the document represented the prevalent position of
Berlin on the Middle East situation.
On the plus side, Israeli officials pointed out that the document did
take note of Israel’s security concerns, the ongoing missile attacks
from Gaza and Palestinian incitement.
“The EU and its member states reiterate their fundamental commitment
to the security of Israel, including with regard to vital threats in
the region,” the statement read. “The EU is appalled by recurring
rocket attacks from Gaza and condemns in the strongest terms violence
deliberately targeting civilians. The EU reiterates its call on all
partners in the region for the effective prevention of arms smuggling
Regarding incitement, the statement called on the PA to end
incitement and expressed “concern for recent incidents of incitement
in Palestinian media and elsewhere.”
Meanwhile, Dani Dayan, head of the Council of Jewish Communities of
Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, responded by calling on the EU to
recognize the legitimacy of West Bank settlements.
“The time has come for the European Union to recognize the
flourishing settlements in Judea and Samaria, that include four
cities, six regional councils and 13 local councils and more than 120
communities for a population of 360,000 Israelis. It is an enterprise
that is irreversible and a fait accompli,” he said.
With respect to the request to allow Palestinians to build in Area C,
Dayan said the guidelines of Oslo determined that 98% of West Bank
Palestinians live in Areas A and B, which is autonomous and under the
auspices of the PA. This includes construction, he said.
Israel, in turn, he said, has the right to build in Area C, where
there is an overwhelming Jewish majority. Tovah Lazaroff contributed
to this report. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 05/15/12)
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