14th Nov 2018

Frustration shows as Patten challenges Israel

Describing the situation in the Middle East as the most depressing since he became European Commissioner for External Relations, Chris Patten has urged the international community to confront Israel over actions which threaten to undermine the peace process.

Speaking in Brussels on Wednesday (15 October), Mr Patten tacitly questioned Israel’s commitment to an internationally backed peace plan, which at its end envisages two viable states "living side by side".

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Israel’s construction of a security fence was singled out as one example of the country adopting policies that conflict with the plan it signed up to earlier this year.

"Maybe up to 45% of Palestinian water resources will be on the Israeli side of the wall. Over 40% of cultivatable land and it looks as if about 30% of Palestinians will have to live in enclaves" he said, before adding:

"What is difficult for me to comprehend is how a government can do that and still argue that it is still in favour of a two state solution".

The fence

The route of the fence has caused concern among many in Brussels who see it as cutting through Palestinian land, disregarding commonly accepted borders.

Mr Patten also expressed his concern that the route of the fence would also make a viable Palestinian state impossible.

"What kind of Palestinian state does Mr Sharon and his government have in mind?" he asked.

Worsening situation

Mr Patten’s comments come just hours after the United States vetoed a UN resolution condemning the fences construction.

On this Mr Patten was terse.

"I think it is a point which the international community has to address, very directly to Mr Sharon and the Israeli government", he said.

His comments also come hours after a bomb killed three Americans and injured one other in an attack in Gaza.

Israel says that it needs the fence to stop this type of violence on its soil.

"Nobody is under any doubt that we need a Palestinian leadership that needs to be much tougher in trying to assert a security grip on those who are responsible for unpardonable acts of terrorist violence" said Mr Patten concluding:

"It is very difficult to see any small rays of sunshine through the clouds. I think it looks exceptionally grim".

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