Abbas asks Western companies to pull out of West Bank settlements

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas makes plea to European Council president over construction in West Bank.

Abbas and Van Rompuey 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Abbas and Van Rompuey 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on European and other Western firms on Wednesday to stop violating international law by working in West Bank settlements.
Abbas’s call came during a meeting in Brussels with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, a former Belgian prime minister.
The PA leader is currently on a tour of several EU countries to urge their governments to activate regulations against settlements and Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.
As Abbas worked against West Bank settlements, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry met in Rome for an extended meeting that lasted for over seven hours.
The renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were one of the key issues the two men discussed.
Before their meeting, Kerry thanked both Netanyahu and Abbas for their courage and for the risks they had taken to rekindle the negotiations, which had been largely dormant since December 2008.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met 13 times since the end of July, including a meeting that took place on Wednesday, Kerry said. He added that US envoy Martin Indyk was in Jerusalem to facilitate those talks.
Israeli officials have spoken of their frustrations over Abbas’s European tour to urge countries to act diplomatically against Israel, particularly in ways that prejudge the outcome of the negotiations.
Following the meeting with Rompuy, Abbas told reporters that his push for sanctions was not directed against Israel.
“We want to live alongside Israel and build bridges of peace with it,” Abbas said. “This call is directed against settlements that were established on the territories of the occupied State of Palestine and its capital, Jerusalem, after 1967.”
In July, the EU issued guidelines that clarified its policy against providing grants, prizes or loans to Israeli entities, including nonprofit and educational institutions, that operate over the pre-1967 lines.
Abbas hailed the EU’s policy toward settlements and Israeli “practices in occupied Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem, the capital of our state, Palestine.”
The Palestinians, he said, want Jerusalem to be open to followers of the three religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
“The establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital on the 1967 borders that would live in security and peace and stability next to Israel is the guarantee for world peace and security,” Abbas stressed.
He said that he was working with US President Barack Obama and Kerry to ensure the success of the current peace talks with Israel.
“These talks are backed by the Arabs and the EU,” Abbas added. “Failure of the talks would have serious consequences for the future of peace and stability in our region and the world.”
He said that despite “hindrances facing the talks as a result of the policies of the Israeli government and its measures on the ground, as well as [the] practices of [the] settlers and the strangling of the Palestinian economy,” the Palestinians would remain committed to the nine-month timeline Kerry had set for the negotiations.
In a related development, the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper reported Wednesday that the PA leadership had asked France to take action against French nationals living in settlements.
The paper said the PA had informed France that hundreds of French citizens currently lived in “illegal” settlements. The PA leadership demanded that the French government either strip these French nationals of their citizenship or put pressure on them to leave the settlements, the paper said.
According to the report, the PA leadership and prominent Fatah officials have also prepared a list of some 500 international companies that do business with settlements. The Palestinians intend to send warnings to these companies about their “illegal” work in the settlements, the paper reported.
Israel has insisted that it has a right to continue to build in West Bank settlements and that Israel would retain populated areas of Judea and Samaria in any final-status agreement.
Palestinians, however, have insisted that Israel must relinquish all territory over the pre- 1967 lines.
In his public statement before the Kerry meeting, Netanyahu did not speak of West Bank settlements, but addressed what he considers the need for Palestinians to recognize Israel’s security needs and its identity as the homeland for the Jewish people.
“Peace is premised on mutual recognition of two states for two peoples – the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people mirrored by the Jewish state for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said. “I think that’s fundamental for any peace, but equally it must be a peace that – as President Obama has said – a peace that Israel can defend by itself, for itself against any conceivable threat. I think these are the two twin pillars of peace.