A view of Jerusalm is seen from the disputed Givat Hamatos neighborhood.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The European Union strongly condemned plans to move forward development of the Givat Hamatos neighborhood in southern Jerusalem, as well to allow Jews to live in the capital’s predominantly Arab neighborhood of Silwan, calling on Israel over the weekend to retract the moves. The EU also warned that Israel’s ties with the union are dependent on its commitment to a two-state solution.
In addition to the EU, Britain “deplored” the Givat Hamatos move, France “condemned” it, and Germany said it is “highly concerned.”
These condemnations followed fast on the heels of an unusually sharp statement put out by the White House and the State Department on Wednesday, soon after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu left the White House. Netanyahu responded by saying he was “baffled” by the US reaction.
A statement by the EU said that the Givat Hamatos and Silwan moves represent “a further highly detrimental step that undermines prospects for a twostate solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”
The “parties’ commitment to a negotiated solution will only be credible if they refrain from unilateral actions that change the situation on the ground and threaten the viability of the two-state solution,” it said.
The EU called on the government to “urgently reverse its decisions” and end “its settlement policy in east Jerusalem and in the West Bank.”
According to the statement, “The EU will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders [sic], including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. We stress that the future development of relations between the EU and Israel will depend on the latter’s engagement toward a lasting peace based on a two-state solution.”
Israel had no immediate response to the veiled threat contained in the condemnation.
Ethiopian and Russian immigrants have been living in caravans in Givat Hamatos since 1991, and in 2005 a major development plan was unveiled for the neighborhood that was expanded last week with the announcement of plans for an additional 2,610 housing units.
Netanyahu responded to the original condemnation by the US by asking MSNBC interviewer Andrea Mitchell why someone would want to prevent an Arab from selling property to a Jew.
“[What] If I said to you in any part of the United States or the world, “Jews cannot buy apartments here?”
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, echoing the White House comment that the moves will distance Israel from even its closest allies, said that “if this development is built it will damage the prospect of a two-state solution, and it will make it more difficult for Israel’s friends to defend it against accusations that it is not serious about peace.”
Meanwhile in Washington, the State Department said on Thursday that despite the Obama administration’s “grave disappointment” in Israel’s continued settlement activity, the Jewish state remains a key US strategic partner.
US officials have told The Jerusalem Post that they were caught off guard by the most recent approval in the housing process, prompting the harsh language in Washington’s condemnation.
But the officials rejected that the rebuke was an intentional snub of Netanyahu.
“We don’t exactly get a heads up on these things,” one official said.