PLO urges EU to act against Israel's settlements construction
On Friday, the European Union Representative as well as ambassadors of 15 European countries submitted a letter to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, condemning Tel Aviv’s announcement to start building in E1 area, east of occupied Jerusalem – a move not deemed enough for Palestinians.
"We welcome the protest letter signed by European Ambassadors against Israel's plans to commence construction in the illegal settlement of Givat Hamatos and possibly the so-called E1 Area on the outskirts of occupied Jerusalem," said Hanan Ashrawi, member of the PLO's Executive Committee.
She called for tangible action against Israel to prevent it from continuing its illegal settlement activity, otherwise the international community will continue to be "emboldening" Israel.
"We believe that the European Union, as well as the governments of these 15 states (Germany, France, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden) should adopt actionable decisions that would deter Israel from persisting on the path of illegality, impunity, and de facto annexation. Rhetorical opposition has not deterred Israel. In fact, Israel is emboldened to escalate its criminal actions precisely because it is confident that opposition will not move from the verbal to the practical."
Ashrawi warned that if implemented, "these Israeli plans would completely sever occupied Jerusalem from its natural Palestinian surrounding and cut the occupied West Bank in half. They would complete the Greater Jerusalem colonial project with the theft of strategic Palestinian land and the physical obstruction of any contiguity of a future Palestinian state".
Ashrawi said: "While the international community is concerned with the 'possibility' of annexation, Israel is implementing its annexation scheme on the ground without any deterrence. This includes the choking siege and silent ethnic cleansing of Silwan, Al-Issawiya, and Wadi Al-Joz (Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem) byway of home demolitions, systemic violence, and announced wide-scale settlement projects predicated on the displacement of thousands of Palestinians."
She urged that states "must not allow Israel to persist in this cynical ruse. The principle of accountability is undermined and rendered irrelevant when international actors insist on giving Israel a free pass on egregious violations of Palestinian rights and international law".
Israel has occupied the West Bank illegally since 1967, and commits various abuses against Palestinian civilians, human rights groups say.
More than 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in constructions considered illegal under international law.
The Oslo agreement of 1995 divided the occupied West Bank into three: Area A, Area B and Area C.
Area A is under the administrative and security control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Area B's administration is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, with Israel controlling security. Area C is under full administrative and security control of Israel.
Israel's plans to annex the West Bank have been denounced as an illegal violation of international law by world leaders as well as UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet.
Israel was originally supposed to begin annexing the occupied West Bank on 1 July, but the plan had been delayed - allegedly because the map to annex the territories was not ready on time.