Israel concerned about EU report slamming J'lem policy

EU believed to be considering renewing official meetings with Palestinians in east Jerusalem.

On the same day Israel officially invited the European Union to be the third party monitors at the Rafah border crossing, Israeli officials were bracing for a "problematic" report on Jerusalem the EU is expected to release next month. The concern in Jerusalem is that this report - which is expected to be very detailed and take Israel to task for building the security barrier in Jerusalem, demolishing houses and creating facts on the ground that the EU believes will make a final agreement over the city almost impossible to reach - will call for the EU to reassess its policy in Jerusalem. Among the "operative" steps the EU is believed to be considering are renewing official meetings with Palestinians in east Jerusalem and working for the re-opening of Palestinian institutions there. The intention to release this report next month raised eyebrows in Jerusalem, with one official saying, "It is impossible to rely on the Europeans. We let them in Rafah through the front door, and the first thing they do is slam us on Jerusalem." While one official said Jerusalem had hoped that Israel's agreement to give the EU a "starring" role in Rafah would have dissuaded them from issuing the report, the EU foreign ministers issued a statement on the Middle East peace process Monday that included "grave concern" about Israeli activities "in and around east Jerusalem, including construction of the separation barrier, settlement building and house demolitions." The statement said that these actions "reduce the possibility of reaching a final status agreement on Jerusalem, threaten to make any solution based on the coexistence of two viable states physically impossible and are contrary to international law." In this light, the statement said, the ministers asked for a "detailed EU analysis on east Jerusalem to be adopted and made public" at the next foreign ministers meeting on December 12. Cristina Gallach, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, said these types of reports "are a regular practice" and meant to appraise the EU of "the situation in east Jerusalem." The EU consul-generals in Jerusalem drew up the document. Gallach said she did not know if the report had been finalized. She said these types of reports represented a "consensual analysis of a given situation, and that they sometimes contain policy suggestions." Even as the report was causing concern in Jerusalem, Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres officially extended an invitation to the EU to monitor the Rafah crossing on the Gaza-Egypt border at a meeting in Tel Aviv with EU special envoy Marc Otte. Peres said that the Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which outlined the mechanism for the EU's deployment is "important for the relationship between Europe and the Middle East in general, and Israel in particular." Peres said the "precedent of European participation will help us overcome other difficulties in a creative manner and with the contribution of all parties. I am glad we can offer this document to continue the road of peace." Gallach said that the Rafah crossing was scheduled to open on Friday, and that by then the EU would have enough personnel at the crossing to keep it open every day for "one shift." She defined a shift as enough time to allow 500 people on busses through the crossing each day. She said that the crossing would gradually be opened at longer intervals as the rest of the 50-to-70-strong team was deployed.