Israel about to sever West Bank from Jerusalem, an EU envoy warns

The EU and much of the international community believes in a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the pre-1967 lines.

 European Union Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff is seen speaking in the West Bank, on November 22, 2021. (photo credit: Courtesy)
European Union Representative Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff is seen speaking in the West Bank, on November 22, 2021.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Israel has reached the final stage of severing the West Bank from Jerusalem, European Union Representative to the Palestinian Authority Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff warned on Sunday.

“We are 11:15 p.m. or 11:45 p.m. from reaching midnight right now,” Burgsdorff told The Jerusalem Post, as he stood with representatives from more than 20 European and like-minded countries at the site of the former Kalandia airport.

He voiced concern over two Israeli projects which they fear would destroy any prospects for a future Palestinian state.

uropean Union Representative to the Palestinian Authority Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff speaking at the former Kalandia airport, November 22, 2021. (Credit: Tovah Lazaroff)

The first is the construction of close to 3,500 settlement homes in an unbuilt area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, known as E1.

The project has been largely frozen for decades, but former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu advanced the project during the last elections and allowed for the deposit of its building plans with the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria.

 View of the desert near Ma'ale Adumim, in the West Bank, January 26, 2021. (credit: YANIV NADAV/FLASH90) View of the desert near Ma'ale Adumim, in the West Bank, January 26, 2021. (credit: YANIV NADAV/FLASH90)

The council is now in the process of hearing objections to the projects, with the next hearing date set for December 13 – the last obstacle to the E1 project’s final approval.

The second project of concern to the EU is the pending construction of 9,000 homes in the Atarot area of east Jerusalem on the site of what was once the Kalandiya airport, which opened in 1924 and closed in 2000. It is presumed to be designated mostly for Jewish Israelis.

The Jerusalem District Planning Committee is scheduled to hold a December 6 hearing on the matter.

Burgsdorff and his delegation visited both sites, where they were briefed by the left-wing NGO Ir Amim. They paused to speak to reporters in Atarot. Behind the delegation was the construction site for a new bypass road with a tunnel that will go underneath the projected homes.

To the delegation’s left stood the security barrier that separated Atarot from apartment buildings in the east Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood of Kafr Akab.

“We are here at the very last stage of completely cutting off Jerusalem from the West Bank, which makes it impossible to discuss between the parties a future, independent, contiguous, viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital of both, based on negotiations on that matter,” he said.

 European Union Representative to the Palestinian Authority Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff speaking at the old Kalandia airport, November 22, 2021. (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF) European Union Representative to the Palestinian Authority Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff speaking at the old Kalandia airport, November 22, 2021. (credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

He told reporters that the plans run contrary to statements the Israeli government has made about shrinking the conflict and maintaining the status quo.

“The current Israeli government clearly said we do not want to jeopardize the status quo, but the things we are seeing on the ground seem to suggest something else,” Burgsdorff said.

“Israeli settlements are in clear violation of international law and constitute a major obstacle to a just, last[ing] and comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” he explained. The EU can’t “close its eyes” to such actions, he added.

The EU and much of the international community believe in a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the pre-1967 lines with Jerusalem as the divided capital of the states.

Israel has been blunt about its belief that Jerusalem must remain the united capital of the Jewish state and that projects like those in Atarot and the E1 area play an important role in protecting a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.

It has also been argued that such projects, which provide access roads that would improve traffic flow, do not cut off Palestinians from the West Bank.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said that “Jerusalem is a living, breathing, growing capital city of the State of Israel.”

Due to work already done in the area of Atarot, ”the municipality had turned Atarot into a thriving industrial zone with it’s first-ever [shopping] mall for aast Jerusalemites, with factories and workplaces providing hundreds of jobs.

“The housing project will provide thousands of much-needed housing units,” Hassan-Naboum said. “The European Union should stop talking in the language of the past and join the development of the future catering for Jews and Arabs alike and providing opportunity and not empty rhetoric and false hopes.”