EU to boycott Israel’s celebration of 50 years of West Bank settlement

Settler leaders immediately lashed out at the EU.

Settlers at a protest rally on the ruins of the Sa-Nur settlement in Samaria. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Settlers at a protest rally on the ruins of the Sa-Nur settlement in Samaria.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
European Union Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret plans to boycott the formal national ceremony celebrating 50 years of settlement activity to be held Wednesday in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank.
The event, titled “The Jubilee Celebration of the Liberation of Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights,” will be attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ministers and Knesset members.
All foreign ambassadors in Israel have been invited, including Giaufret. But as of Monday, with two days to go until the event, organizers from the Gush Etzion Regional Council had yet to have a head count of how many ambassadors would attend.
Among those who have yet to confirm is US Ambassador David Friedman. Upon arriving to take up his post, Friedman made it clear he planned to break with the policy of his predecessors, who did not formally cross the pre-1967 lines.
A spokeswoman for the US Embassy declined to comment on whether Friedman would attend.
Israel presumes that the Gush Etzion region will be within its borders in any final status agreement with the Palestinians. Even former US president Jimmy Carter, a vehement opponent of settlements, has said he always imagined that Gush Etzion would remain in Israeli hands.
The left-wing group Peace Now called on Israeli politicians to boycott the event because it marked 50 years of Israeli military rule over millions of Palestinians and therefore was not a cause for celebration.
“Holding a governmental event outside Israel’s sovereign borders is one more step forward for the Netanyahu government’s policy of creeping annexation,” Peace Now said in a statement.
The Canadian Embassy said its ambassador would not attend “because it is a Government of Israel event being held in the West Bank.”
Mark Gallagher, who heads the EU’s political and press section, said: “We declined the invitation in line with long-standing EU policy not to attend official events in occupied territory.”
It’s unclear if all EU ambassadors will follow suit and refuse to attend.
Settler leaders immediately lashed out at the EU.
“We see ourselves as an integral and inseparable part of the State of Israel and are not interested in being part of the European Union,” Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Neeman said. “I welcome the EU to invest their energies in repairing their long-standing legacy of hatred and causing harm to others.”
Efrat Council head Oded Revivi said the EU’s absence sent the wrong message to the Palestinians about the future of the Gush Etzion region.
Revivi invited the EU ambassador to visit, recounting the history of the area, where the biblical figure Rachel is said to be buried and Jews settled prior to the 1948 War of Independence.
“The development of settlements here post[- 1967] is the strongest testimony possible that the Gush is an indispensable part of the State of Israel,” said Revivi, who is the Yesha Council’s foreign envoy.