Borrell : Settlement construction Area E1 will sever the connection between Northern and Southern West Bank

Brussels/PNN/

High Representative Josep Borrell said in a statement send to PNN on the Israeli announcement of Settlement construction plans in the West Bank (Area E1)  will cut the geographic and territorial contiguity between East-Jerusalem and the West Bank. Construction in E1 will sever the connection between Northern and Southern West Bank.

Borrell added that the EU reiterates its call on Israel to halt settlement construction, to suspend the publication of tenders and to refrain from any measures aimed at the advancement of such construction plans. Settlements are illegal under international law.

“We call on both parties to engage in a dialogue and to refrain from any unilateral action that undermines the viability of the two-state solution,” the EU High Representative said.

The Israeli authorities have announced construction plans for new building units in Area E1, located east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.

This follows Israel’s announcement last week on the decision for settlement constructions in Giv’at Hamatos and Har Homa neighborhoods south of Jerusalem. Tenders for Giv’at Hamatos have been published this week.

On the other hand, European Parliament delegation supports the Palestinian call for saving a real two-state solution

Led by Manuel Pineda (GUE/NGL, Spain), Chair of the Delegation for relations with Palestine, a delegation of the European Parliament (EP) has concluded today its official visit to Palestine.

This mission took place in a crucial moment against the background of the recently released US plan for the Middle East, Israeli announcements of new settlements, and renewed violence. Members visited East Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, and the Shu’afat refugee camp, and met with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, PLO Secretary-General and former chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, Chief Diplomatic Adviser to the President Majdi Khaldi, as well as the Chair of the Palestinian Central Elections Committee and a broad spectrum of Palestinian civil society representatives and citizens.

The Delegation was again denied access to the Gaza Strip by the Israeli authorities, although the purpose of the visit was to monitor the humanitarian situation caused by the more than decade-long blockade. Denying access to Gaza to Members of the European Parliament has become systematic and is unacceptable.

Members share the views of their Palestinian interlocutors that the US plan cannot be a basis for resumed peace negotiations, as it contradicts international law and relevant UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. They express their support to the principled statement made by High Representative/Vice President (HR/VP) Josep Borrell about that plan. The time has come for the EU to present its own initiative in coordination with other international actors.

The delegation welcomes the readiness reiterated by Palestinian leaders to engage in meaningful peace talks which are in line with international law and internationally agreed parameters in a multilateral framework.

The two-state solution – on the 1967 borders with the State of Israel and the viable and contiguous State of Palestine living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition – remains the only way to peace.

The EU’s immediate priority must be to safeguard the basic parameters of the two-state solution. To that end, the delegation urges all EU Member States that have not yet done so to recognize the State of Palestine.

The delegation also calls for the recent ruling by the European Court of Justice on the labeling of Israeli settlement products to be fully and effectively implemented in all EU Member States. The policy of differentiation between the territory of the state of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in the EU’s bilateral relations, including trade, with both sides, is a legal and political obligation. No settlement-related activity and no organization involved in such activities should benefit from any EU program, including Horizon 2020. The delegation calls on the European Commission to monitor and strictly enforce this legal obligation.

In East Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem and other parts of the occupied territories, the delegation could witness the devastating effects of Israeli settlements on the daily life of the local Palestinian population, and on the prospect of the two-State solution. Members strongly oppose the recent announcements of illegal buildings in Givat Hamatos, Har Homa, and the critical E1 zone, which all tend to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

The delegation has learned with deep concern about increasing settler violence in Hebron since the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) left one year ago and calls for the re-establishment of this important mechanism to protect Palestinian citizens. They also call for an immediate end to house demolitions and forcible transfers of Palestinian families in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and urge the EU to demand compensation for EU-funded projects destroyed by Israel.

The delegation witnessed the further growing pressure on Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem, and welcome the EU’s East Jerusalem program aimed at strengthening the resilience of the Palestinian population and the Palestinian character of the city. Members reiterate that the EU will not recognize any changes to the 1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties.

During its visit to the Shu’afat refugee camp, the delegation could also witness first-hand the vital work conducted by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in providing quality education, health services and basic assistance to local residents. Members call on the EU to increase its support to the UN agency and redouble its efforts to convince other international partners, notably in the Arab world, to live up to their commitments of support.

The delegation supports the efforts aimed at holding elections in Palestine, which are long overdue, and welcomes the agreement among Palestinian political parties in this regard. It urges HR/VP Borrell to support the Palestinian demand to exercise their right to hold these elections also in East Jerusalem.

Members also welcome the support offered by the EU in this field, including through election observation. Chair Pineda stated: “It is essential to give a voice to all Palestinian citizens, including in East Jerusalem, and renew the legitimacy of Palestinian institutions, which the EU continues to support politically and financially”.

Throughout its visit, the delegation held fruitful discussions with a wide range of Palestinian civil society representatives, in particular women’s organizations and human rights defenders, as well as Israeli civil society representatives fighting occupation. At the end of their mission, Members wish to thank them all for their hospitality and express their support for their peaceful resistance and struggle for self-determination, democracy, and human rights in line with international law.

The Delegation for relations with Palestine is led by MEP Manu Pineda (GUE/NGL, Spain) and comprises MEP Evin Incur, 1st Vice-Chair (S&D, Sweden), MEP Margrete Auken, 2nd Vice-Chair (Greens/EFA, Denmark), MEP Sylvie Brunet (Renew Europe, France) and MEP Lefteris Nikolaou (N.A., Greece).

This statement has been endorsed by the whole delegation, with the exception of MEP Lefteris Nikolaou