A section of the controversial Israeli barrier is seen close to a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
International condemnations over Israel’s declaration of 400 hectares in Gush Etzion as state land 11 days ago are not subsiding, as the EU’s ambassador to Israel and Australia’s foreign minister called on Wednesday for Israel to reverse the decision.
“We are very concerned about the move in Gush Etzion,” EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen said at a Jerusalem press briefing. “I delivered the message to Deputy Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi on Monday that this is an alarming development because of the timing.”
Faaborg-Andersen, who said the EU wanted to see a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, said this was “one of the worst signals to send in the current situation.” He said that the EU viewed this move as a reversible step, and hopes Israel would reconsider it.
He said that the EU was concerned about “similar plans” for Givat Hamatos, in southern Jerusalem, and wanted these plans to “stay on hold.”
He characterized plans for Givat Hamatos and Gush Etzion as “particularly strategic and damaging” because they would ring southern Jerusalem with settlements, cutting it off from the West Bank.
With that, he said that sanctions against Israel were not on the agenda for now.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, meanwhile, issued a statement saying that in a conversation with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday, she said that Australia was “deeply concerned” by the Gush Etzion move, which she described as taking place “south of Bethlehem.”
“The expropriation undermines prospects for a negotiated two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state existing side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders – a goal to which Australia remains committed,” she said.
Bishop said that the announcement “is unhelpful so soon after the Gaza conflict,” and called on Israel to reconsider the decision.
What makes Bishop’s statement stand-out from the other somewhat rote and automatic condemnations that continue to come from the US and Europe is that in June, Australia said it would no longer describe east Jerusalem as “occupied territory”: in January, Bishop took issue with calling the settlements illegal; and in November, Australia abstained on two annual anti-Israel resolutions at the UN, one calling for an end to all settlement activities.
A government official, when asked whether Israel would indeed reconsider the move, said that the decision has to go through the legal process, and could go all the way up to the Supreme Court, ensuring there will be adequate “legal review.” There is a 45-day period during which concerned parties can appeal the decision.