Wednesday

1st Dec 2021

EU urges Israel to halt demolition of Bedouin village

  • Bedouin women at home in Susya (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

The EU has urged Israel not to destroy a Bedouin village in the West Bank, amid a new French initiative on how to restart peace talks.

It said on Monday (20 July) the plan “for forced transfer of population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure in the Susya and Abu Nwar communities” is part of wider settlement expansion which “seriously threaten[s] the two-state solution”.

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  • Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said the idea is to involve Arab states (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

The statement, by foreign ministers, comes after Israeli authorities decided to demolish 37 structures in the South Hebron Hills.

The demolitions mostly target private homes, affecting 91 people, 45 of whom are children.

Twenty two of the structures were funded by the EU. One of them, a medical clinic, is subsidised by Italy.

The plan is being contested by Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli NGO, with a court hearing due in August.

But Cogat, the Israeli body which governs the West Bank, has the right under Israeli law to destroy the village at any time.

Quartet expansion

The EU appeal comes amid a French initiative on how to restart Israel-Palestine peace talks.

The EU ministers also endorsed “a renewed multilateral approach” to the conflict, a French proposal to broaden the format of the Quartet, the international body handling the Middle East Peace Process [MEPP], which includes the EU, Russia, the UN, and the US.

Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said she wants to involve Arab states.

She said Quartet envoys already held talks with Egypt and Jordan and that she will file a feasibility study on the project in September.

“At the moment … there seems to be no peace process at all”, she noted on Monday.

Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said “the peace process is effectively dead. The situation is bad. Europe should help both parties to take steps to overcome the impasse”.

Polish foreign minister Grzegorz Schetyna said there’s a “new tempo” in France.

“Maybe the conclusion of the Iran [nuclear] deal will make it easier to find a solution to this situation as well”, he added.

UN resolution

France is also drafting a UN Security Council resolution to stimulate new talks.

Fabius, last year, told the French parliament he wants to give Israel and Palestine a two-year deadline to reach an accord and that France will recognise Palestinian statehood if there’s no outcome.

Meanwhile, the Susya demolition has little strategic meaning in terms of the viability of a future Palestinian state.

But Israel’s intransigence on past EU appeals has eroded diplomatic support.

All eight EU members of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, including Germany, earlier this month backed a report criticisng Israel’s conduct in the 2014 Gaza war.

EU institutions are also nearing publication of guidelines for retail labels on Israeli settlement exports, in a move likely to prompt consumer boycotts.

“The EU and its member states reaffirm their commitment to ensure continued, full, and effective implementation of existing EU legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products”, the ministers said on Monday.

Israel threatens EU-funded NGOs

Israel’s deputy foreign minister has told EU countries to stop funding left-wing NGOs which, she says, “blacken” Israel’s name.

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