EU warns Israel’s Har Homa, Givat Hamatos building harms 2-states
Building in these areas would undermine the viability of a future Palestinian state, the EU and Ireland, Germany, France and Italy say.
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned on Saturday that Israel was harming the possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict with its plan to expand Har Homa neighborhood and create a new one on Givat Hamatos, both of which are located in east Jerusalem.“Such steps would be deeply detrimental to a two-state-solution,” said Borrell in a statement put out by his office.“As set out clearly on numerous occasions by the European Union, including in Council conclusions, such steps would cut the geographic and territorial contiguity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, isolate Palestinian communities living in these areas, and threaten the viability of a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as capital of both states,” Borrell stated.“Settlements are illegal under international law. The EU will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties. We call on Israel to reconsider these plans,” he added.Four EU countries — France, Germany, Ireland and Italy — also put out individual statements condemning the plan.On Thursday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he authorized the issuance of a tender for 1,000 housing units for a new neighborhood in Givat Hamas. The project dates back to 2012, but had been frozen under pressure from the Obama administration.Overall, Netanyahu said he planned to approve 4,000 apartment units in Givat Hamatos; 3,000 for Jewish residents of the city and 1,000 for Arab residents. In addition, Netanyahu said, he planned to expand the nearby Jewish Har Homa neighborhood by an additional 2,200 apartment units.Opponents of the project warn that these two neighborhoods create a Jewish wedge that cuts off the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem from nearby Bethlehem and the West Bank. Effectively, the opponents argue, it makes it impossible for Palestinians to achieve their vision of a state with contiguous territory at the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital.Israel has held that Har Homa and a potential neighborhood at Givat Hamatos are essential to carry out its vision of a united Jerusalem. US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which he unveiled on January 28, places all areas of Jerusalem within the route of the security barrier under sovereign Israel. Both neighborhoods are within the security barrier’s route.The European Union is scheduled to discuss the Trump peace plan at its March 23rd meeting of foreign ministers. Europe is concerned about pending Israeli plans to annex West Bank settlements. In 1980, Israel applied sovereignty to all areas of Jerusalem over the pre-1967 lines. The EU has never recognized that sovereignty, and considers Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem to be settlements. In its statement, France urged “the Israeli authorities to reconsider these decisions and to refrain from any unilateral measures.”France reaffirmed “that the two-state solution, with both states living in peace and security, recognized borders and with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region. It stands ready to support any effort in this direction based on agreed international parameters and coming about through negotiations between the parties.”On Thursday EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met with Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki. According to Borrell’s office, the foreign policy chief told Malki the EU was ready to work with Israelis and Palestinians and other regional actors to revive the peace process “in line with international law, which ensures equal rights and which is acceptable to both parties.”The two men also discussed the Trump peace plan, the prospect of Palestinian elections and the humanitarian situation in Gaza.According to the Palestinian news agency WAFA, Malki sought support from Borrell for an international conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict led by the Quartet, which includes the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the EU. It would also involve the 15 member nations of the UN Security Council.The Palestinians have rejected the Trump peace plan and would like to see a multilateral process instead that focuses on a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines. The Trump peace plan does not focus on the Green Line and instead provides for a demilitarized Palestinian state on 70% of the West Bank, including Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem outside the route of the security barrier.