EU foreign ministers dismayed at E-1 construction plans, say it would “seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution”
PM: On building houses in our capital, the EU is the first to protest. Where was the world’s censure when Hamas called for Israel’s destruction?
European Union foreign ministers strongly stated that all of the body’s agreements with Israel only applied to the pre-1967 lines, as they spoke out on Monday against Israeli settlement plans including the development of E1.
A diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post that he feared some of the language in the council statement was placed there to lay the groundwork for labeling and possibly banning settlement products in the future.
The EU said all of its agreements with Israel “must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, namely the Golan Heights; the West Bank, including east Jerusalem; and the Gaza Strip.”
The council called for full implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products.
The statement was part of a larger document on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict published at the end of the EU Foreign Affairs Council’s monthly meeting.
The EU in its statement said it was “deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem, and in particular plans to develop the E1 area,” it said.
E1 is located just outside of Jerusalem, on an unbuilt tract of land within the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.
Building up E1, the council warned, would “undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict by jeopardizing the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states. It could also entail forced transfer of civilian population.”
The Foreign Ministry slammed the council’s conclusions.
“This one-sided position taken by the EU rewards rejectionism and does not contribute to promoting a permanent peace agreement,” it said.
As the foreign ministers met in Brussels, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with foreign reporters at a Government Press Office Chanukah event and rejected the council’s assertions.
Building in Ma’aleh Adumim and linking it with Jerusalem through a narrow corridor will not harm the two-state solution, Netanyahu said.
Such claims, he said, are “not true.”
“Unfortunately, if you repeat a falsehood endlessly, it assumes the cache of truth,” he said.
He chastised the international community for overly focusing its attention on Israel’s actions, rather than pressuring the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
“The Palestinians can afford to avoid negotiations [with Israel] because the international community exacted no price for the Palestinian failure to negotiate in good faith,” Netanyahu said.
Over the weekend, he said Hamas leaders in Gaza openly called for Israel’s destruction.
“Where was the outrage?” he asked.
“Where were the UN resolutions? Where was [PA] President [Mahmoud] Abbas? Why weren’t the Palestinians summoned to European and other capitals to explain why the PA president not only refused to condemn this but declared his intention to unite with Hamas?” Netanyahu added that the only thing he heard was a deafening silence.
“We cannot accept that when Jews build homes in their ancient capital of Jerusalem, the international community has no problem finding its voice,” Netanyahu said.
“But when Palestinian leaders openly call for the destruction of Israel, the one and only Jewish state, the world is silent,” said Netanyahu.
Israel, he said, would continue to defend its rights in its ancient homeland against those who seek to destroy it.
Hours later, the EU council said, “The EU finds inflammatory statements by Hamas leaders that deny Israel’s right to exist unacceptable.”
It also called on Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
The EU issued its statement just one day after Abbas called on Israel to halt Jewish building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in exchange for a six-month negotiating period.
Netanyahu has yet to address that initiative, but in talking with the foreign press on Monday, he said that he rejected any attempts by the Palestinians to impose preconditions on negotiations.
The prime minister said that Palestinians have rebuffed his call for direct talks since he took office four years ago.
He outlined the steps he has taken to show good will, including calling for a two-state solution in his Bar-Ilan University speech in 2009.
“I can tell you as a leader of the Likud this was not a simple speech to make,” he added.
Israel removed roadblocks and checkpoints to facilitate the movement of people and goods, Netanyahu said, adding that his government took the unprecedented step of imposing a 10-month moratorium on new settlement building.
“Still the Palestinians refused to come to the talks,” Netanyahu said.
They sat down with Israel for only a few hours in the final month of the moratorium to insist that it be extended, he said.
The Palestinians refused first a US initiative and then a Jordanian one for renewed talks, the prime minister said.
“The facts are clear to anyone who wants to see them. Year after year, the Palestinians pile up precondition after precondition,” Netanyahu continued.
First the Palestinians wanted a full settlement freeze in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the prime minister said, then a preagreement that the pre-1967 lines would be the territorial border of the two states, then they wanted the release of all prisoners.
“Who knows what preconditions the future holds?” he asked.
“The Palestinians avoided negotiations because they were prepared to take concessions from Israel, but they were not prepared to make concessions to Israel,” Netanyahu said.
The Palestinians’ unilateral steps toward statehood at the UN, including the UN General Assembly resolution upgrading their status to that of non-member observer state, was similarly an attempt to avoid negotiations, he said.
The Palestinians are not prepared to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or to seriously address Israel’s security needs, he said. Netanyahu added that the Palestinians’ UN resolution did not address these concerns nor did it speak of ending the conflict.
The UN bid was “a material breach of the peace accord. It was an attempt to establish unacceptable terms of reference for negotiations,” Netanyahu said.
It upgraded the Palestinians’ ability to wage legal and diplomatic war against Israel, Netanyahu said.
Bilateral negotiation without preconditions, he said, is the only path to a two-state solution.
“The Palestinians have wasted the last four years and I sincerely hope they won’t waste the next four years,” he said.
View Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=295399