Tuesday

21st Feb 2017

Draft text: EU ministers 'worried' by Israeli actions in West Bank

  • EU Council meeting room. A diplomat said 'the text could change completely, or there might be no text at all' (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

A draft statement for EU foreign ministers next week says Israel's monopolisation of land and water in the occupied West Bank is "worrying" and endangers the two-state solution.

The text - provisionally agreed by mid-level EU diplomats on Monday (16 January) - says: "Against a backdrop of worrying developments in 2011, particularly with respect to settlements under Area C, the EU reaffirms its commitment to a two-state solution ... The viability of a two-state solution must not be jeopardised."

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It also says the EU "welcomes" Jordan's recent efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks and urges both sides "to build confidence and create an atmosphere of trust" for the negotiations.

Area C is a 62-percent chunk of the occupied West Bank designated by the Oslo accords in the 1990s as being under full Israeli control.

The reference by ministers to "worrying" developments is based on an internal report by EU heads of mission in Israel from 14 December, which blames it for using housing law to force native Palestinians off their most fertile land.

The report - seen by EUobserver - notes that in 1967 there were between 200,000 and 320,000 Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, most of which lies in Area C, but that just 56,000 live there today.

The Jewish population has grown from 1,200 to 310,000 over the same period.

It notes that Israeli farms use "most of the water resources in the area" to grow export crops. Meanwhile, Palestinians get access to just 25 percent of available water at higher prices, limiting them to "low intensity agriculture."

All 27 EU countries endorsed the internal report and one EU diplomat said the draft ministers' statement is likely to go through unchanged.

But another diplomat warned that pro-Israeli EU countries - such as the Netherlands and the Czech Republic - will try to make sure the ministers' public communique does not offend their ally.

"There are still two or three [ambassador-level] meetings this week before the EU ministers' meeting next week [23 January], so the text could change completely, or there might be no text at all if they can't agree," the contact said.

Opinion

Israel: Negotiations cannot be bypassed

There is an unbridgeable gap between a state with peace and a state without peace. The future of the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians lies in that difference, writes Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, Israel's Ambassador to the EU.

Opinion

Europe awakens to Palestinian realities

With Ashton in Israel this week and with fresh EU reports on the realities of Israeli occupation, Europe should not squander its opportunity to build better relations with the rapidly changing Arab world.

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