By: Fern Sidman
On Tuesday, December 11th, PLO Executive Committee member, Hanan Ashwari called on those foreign ministers gathered on Monday December 10 at the European Union summit in Brussels to “reconsider” it’s political and trade relations with Israel over what it called “provocations.”
The EU’s meeting in Brussels was convened to debate Israel’s approval last week of the thousands of housing units to be built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. As had been predicted, the meeting resulted in a severe condemnation of Israel’s decisions. Following discussions on the matter, the EU issued a statement saying that it was, “deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem, and in particular plans to develop the E1 area,” and said all of its agreements with Israel only applied to the pre-1967 lines. Diplomatic sources have indicated that they fear that the language in the council statement as it pertained to recognition of Israel only within the context of the 1967 borders, was placed there to lay the groundwork for labeling and possibly banning settlement products in the future.
While praising the EU condemnation of Israeli settlement plans, Ashwari exhorted them to take further punitive measures against the Jewish state. “We call on the EU to hold Israel accountable for its illegal occupation of Palestine, reconsider its political and trade relations with Israel and agreements, including the EU-Israel Association agreement, implement a ban on Israeli settler products and extremist settlers, and rescue the chances for peace and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Ashrawi said. Specifically condemning Israel for “settlement activities and the rise of settler violence,” Ashwari also accused Israel of “the blatant attack on Palestinian security forces, the raiding and plundering of the offices of Palestinian NGOs and civil society organizations, and the increase in home demolitions.”
In response to inflammatory statements made over the weekend by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal on his premier visit to Gaza, in which he called for Israel’s annihilation, the EU released a statement saying that it denounces as “unacceptable” statements by Hamas “that deny Israel’s right to exist.” Pressured to speak out against the objectives of Hamas by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who issued his own condemnations of the failure of the international community to stand up for Israel in the face of direct threats made by terrorist organizations, the EU said in a statement released following the meeting that the bloc reiterated its “fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, including with regard to vital threats in the region,” adding it “will never stop opposing those who embrace and promote violence as a way to achieve political goals.”
The announcement of Israeli plans for the expansion of Jewish settlements and the addition of 3000 new homes near the E1 area of Jerusalem has significantly raised the ire of the international group and prompted them to issue further condemnations. “The E1 plan, if implemented, would seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict by jeopardizing the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states,” the EU claimed. “In the light of its core objective of achieving the two-state solution, the EU will closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly,” the statement concluded.
In an interview Tuesday with Israel Radio, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sent shockwaves when he compared European diplomacy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Holocaust. “I’m not pleased with Europe’s position that again, again in history, ignores calls to annihilate the nation of Israel.” Hamas, he said, missed no opportunity to clearly state its objective of annihilating the state of Israel, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he insisted, supported that position. “We already went through this Europe at the end of the 30s, in the 40s. They are sacrificing all their values in favor of their interests. Even then, in the 40s they knew what was going on with the concentration camps, to the Jews, and they didn’t exactly act,” Lieberman said.