News / Middle East

US Joins EU in Pressuring Israel to Reverse Settlement Plans

The West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, is seen behind sign posts December 3, 2012.
The West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, is seen behind sign posts December 3, 2012.
Scott Bobb
The Obama administration has joined European nations in trying to pressure Israel to reverse plans to build thousands of homes in the occupied areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, claimed by the Palestinians as part of an independent state.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that Israeli leaders should "exercise restraint" and "reconsider" the housing plans, announced last week in retaliation for the Palestinian Authority securing an upgrade in its U.N. status to a "non-member observer state."  Carney said the "unilateral" Israeli moves are "counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations to achieve a two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A map of the E1 development area.A map of the E1 development area.
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A map of the E1 development area.
A map of the E1 development area.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner criticized Israel's decision to start planning the development of a barren area it calls E-1, near East Jerusalem.  Toner said any construction in the zone would be "especially damaging" to peace efforts.

Earlier Monday, five EU nations protested Israel's moves by summoning the Israeli ambassadors in their capitals.  The governments of Britain, Denmark, France, Spain and Sweden called for the housing projects to be scrapped.

Israel Stands by Housing Plans

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the criticism.  His office issued a statement saying "Israel will continue to stand by its vital interests, even in the face of international pressure."  It said "there will be no change in the decision that has been made."

E-1 would link East Jerusalem to the main West Bank Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim.  Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital and vows to incorporate major West Bank settlements into its territory in any peace agreement.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday that the E-1 project represents an "almost fatal blow" to chances of achieving peace because it "risks completely cutting off" East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Implications of the E-1 Project

People wave Palestinians flags during celebrations for their successful bid to win U.N. statehood recognition in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Dec. 2, 2012.People wave Palestinians flags during celebrations for their successful bid to win U.N. statehood recognition in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Dec. 2, 2012.
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People wave Palestinians flags during celebrations for their successful bid to win U.N. statehood recognition in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Dec. 2, 2012.
People wave Palestinians flags during celebrations for their successful bid to win U.N. statehood recognition in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Dec. 2, 2012.
Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state that incorporates the West Bank.  They say E-1's location at the center of the West Bank would make it impossible for them to form a state with viable borders and would block Arab access to East Jerusalem.

Supporters of E-1 say it would not obstruct an independent Palestine's connection to Jerusalem through Arab districts such as Abu Dis.  They also say it would not prevent the northern and southern parts of the West Bank from being connected by a corridor at least 15 kilometers wide - about the same as the narrowest width between Israel's Mediterranean coast and the edge of the West Bank.

EU Considers Further Response

Swedish Foreign Minister Car Bildt said Monday that Stockholm will encourage other EU members to pursue additional steps against Israel.  He did not elaborate.  The 27-nation EU is a major trading partner of Israel.

EU divisions could make it difficult for the bloc to take any concerted action.  French President Francois Hollande said he is not ready to impose sanctions on Israel.  French and British officials also downplayed the possibility of their governments taking the rare step of recalling their ambassadors from Israel.

France was one of 14 EU nations that voted in favor of upgrading Palestine to an observer state at the U.N. General Assembly last Thursday.  Britain was among 12 EU members that abstained, while the Czech Republic voted against.  The UNGA overwhelmingly approved the upgrade by a vote of 138 in favor, with 41 abstentions and nine against.  The United States also joined Israel in opposition.

Renewed Negotiations Unlikely

West Bank Palestinians gave a warm welcome Sunday to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas upon his return from the U.N. General Assembly.  They celebrated the world body's first formal adoption of the word "state" alongside their name.  But there is little evidence that the U.N. decision is changing the prospects of renewed negotiations between the Israeli government and Palestinian representatives.
 
Abraham Diskin, an analyst at Israel's Inter-Disciplinary Center, said the U.N. vote was largely symbolic in that it represented change, but did not help the Palestinian cause a great deal.  "It increases antagonism," he said.  "Probably the only way to achieve some solution is by negotiation.  And unilateral moves - either by Israel or the Palestinians - just create animosity and delay what should be done, which is direct negotiations."

Abbas Under Pressure

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly prior to a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state in the United Nations, Nov. 29, 2012.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly prior to a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state in the United Nations, Nov. 29, 2012.
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly prior to a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state in the United Nations, Nov. 29, 2012.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly prior to a vote on a resolution on the issue of upgrading the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state in the United Nations, Nov. 29, 2012.
Palestinian analysts said Abbas was obliged to go to the United Nations to boost his standing among Palestinians. Abbas and his Fatah political faction in the West Bank were largely on the sidelines as rival Hamas militants who control the Gaza Strip engaged in an eight-day conflict with Israel.  The cross-border attacks ended with a shaky cease-fire one week before the U.N. vote.
 
Gaza-based political commentator Talal Okal said that before the conflict, Fatah would have won any election in the Palestinian territories.  But now, he said, it would lose.  "The very important difference between Fatah and Hamas is that Hamas has its vision, has its program and it's ready to pay for it," Okal said.  "They are ready to pay the price.  The others [Fatah] are not."

Palestinian UN Statehood Vote
 
  • Palestinians won non-member observer state status 
  • They previously had non-member observer entity status 
  • The new status allows Palestinians to participate in General Assembly debates 
  • State status lets Palestinians apply to join the International Criminal Court and other U.N. agencies
  • A Palestinian bid to gain full U.N. membership failed in 2011
Hamas Takes Center Stage
 

Political scientist Mkhaimar Abusada of the University of Gaza said the conflict for the first time put Hamas center-stage in the Middle East with visits to Gaza by many foreign ministers from the region and attention by international diplomats negotiating a cease-fire.  "Hamas is no longer isolated, or, Hamas is no longer irrelevant as the United States and Western countries have dealt with it," Abusada said.  "The policy of isolating, boycotting Hamas hasn't really worked.  It's very much the opposite now."
 
Hamas, which won power in Gaza elections five years ago, is seeking an end to an Israeli trade blockade and a reopening of its land-borders to international trade.  But Israel refuses to deal diplomatically with Hamas because the militants do not recognize the Jewish state and have called for its destruction.
 
It was Egypt, and not Abbas, that was involved in the cease-fire negotiations over Gaza.  As a result, analysts said, Abbas appeared to become largely irrelevant.  They said this is a major reason for his strong speeches at the United Nations and in Ramallah following the vote.
 
Abraham Diskin of Israel's Inter-Disciplinary Center said Mr. Abbas is being pressured by Palestinian extremists.  "We have now amongst the Palestinians the most moderate leaders ever," he said.  "Nevertheless, because of the pressure of extreme movements and fanatics like the jihadist movements, there is double-talk that doesn't promote the [peace] process."

Michael Lipin contributed from Washington.

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Comments
     
by: Yuyu Wahyudi from: Indonesia
December 04, 2012 2:52 AM
I regret on Israeli's settlement plant. Pointless every effort to create a peace in Middle East if Israel do that. It is a proof of stubbornness of Israel. We still remember how did they capture Palestinian land with drove Palestinian away from their land? The world is not affair on Palestinian with not recognize for this country freedom but Super power countries just only recognized Israeli freedom. With upgrade settlement plant by Israel will create new problems in future (that) will threat a peace of the world. STOP SETTLEMENT PLANT, RIGHT NOW !!!

by: jfrigan from: Ottawa, Canada
December 03, 2012 3:51 PM
This pressure from the US/EU on Israel is totally nonesensical; it was these same "pressurizers" that forced Israel out of Gaza; naively the Isr gvmt unilaterally withdrew. These people are only interested on what is best for the islamists, and not what is best for Israel, Jews, Christians and even moderate muslims. These were the same EU voices that pressured Israel out of Gaza, with absolutely disastrous effects for the normal Pals civilians and Isrs civilians. Gaza fell into the hands of islamists, that have absolutely no intention to stop their, terrorist activities, they openly state this, against Isr; and terror activities against their own people, if those people do not agree with their islamist agenda. Access to all the religeous sites, in areas under Isr control is un-impeded; in the areas of islamist control, not only access is restricted, but the islamists systematically destroy Jewish and Christian sites. The people of Israel, the Jews, are ancestral people; their right to live in any part of the old Judean kingdom must be fully protected and fully recognized. It is a travesty that the ancestral rights of the Jewish people are being trampled again and again; while at the same time terrorism is being rewarded. As long as the Pals refuse to recognize the rights of the Israelis, and especially the ancestral rights of the Jewish people, there is no future for a resolution to the Pal/Isr conflict.
The persecution of Israel and the Jewish people continues at the hands of so called democracies, some of which embarked in the wholesale extermination of the Jewish people during WWII and before; some of these so called democracies in fact tolerate islamist terrorism, and by the fact that they attack Isr they are trampling of the rights of the Jewish people. It really looks that anti-Judaism is back, in a more devious, back-handed way. The same sit is seen against other ancestral peoples, like the Greeks, Kurds, Armenians, Hindi, etc..

by: Robert Rowley from: Tucson, Arizona
December 03, 2012 1:48 PM
The San Remo conference gave Jews the right to settle in the WHOLE of Palestine in perpetuity. The British Mandate of 1922 includes Gaza and the West Bank as Jewish territory. The British Mandate also provided for the establishment of a Palestinian State. It's name is JORDAN today. Hence there are today NO Palestinians as the former Turkish Protectorate of Palestine no longer exists. Those who refer to themselves as "Palestinians" are the true occupiers as their legal homeland is Jordan. The 'pre-1967 borders' that many speak of were nothing but de-facto cease fire lines, and had no legal basis at all. When Israel took control of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967, they simply reclaimed what was rightfully theirs and so Israel building these 3000 new homes is completely legal. Something else to consider, the UN, in bifurcating Palestine, violated international law, Article 80 of the UN Charter prohibits this action.

by: Jeremy John from: Long Island NY
December 03, 2012 1:41 PM
Once the ICC gets its teeth into Israel 500,000 Jews will be scampering back behind 1967 internationally recognized borders faster then you can say boycotts divestiture and sanctions (courtesy of all Western European countries and Canada. All signatories to the Rome Statute).

by: hoosain.jacobs from: South Africa
December 03, 2012 1:07 PM
I cannot believe it. The arrogance of the Jewsish state.The chicken is pecking on the golden egg.

by: Nik from: US
December 03, 2012 12:40 PM
Israel was not created by negotiations with Palestine or their consent but was created by UN 6 decades ago. Palestinians do not need Israeli approval to ask or attain freedom either. the world needs to step up to their responsibility, distance itself from USA regarding this conflict and do the right thing for creation of Palestine at the UN. Peace and borders has never been in Israels interest of expansion and occupation, they will never want peace. All they want is the $3B annual aid from US to build weapons that allow them to continue occupation and steal Palestinian land.

by: vinnie gambini from: ny
December 03, 2012 10:11 AM
Summon on some of this partner.
Jerusalem, UNDIVIDED is Israel.
In fact, Judea & SAMARIA too are Israel.
Not only- the so called Palestinians are imposters-
must return to their Trans-Jordan.

Now, what were you saying?

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