22nd Mar 2018

EU diplomats oppose Trump on Jerusalem

  • Trump visited Jerusalem in May last year prior to his announcement in December (Photo: State of Israel)

EU diplomats in the Middle East have proposed ways to undermine Donald Trump's decision to establish Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The counter-measures were put forward in a confidential report filed by EU states' ambassadors in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, in Israeli-occupied Palestine, after the US president, on 6 December, unilaterally recognised Israel's claim to the holy city.

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Trump's decision was "a fundamental shift in US policy", the 49-page EU report, seen by EUobserver, said.

"This is the first time that one of the final status issues has been subject to a policy change by a third party since the … Oslo Accords [in 1993]," it added.

EU leaders should send out a "common message", the text said, that Europe will "continue to respect the international consensus" that Jerusalem should be shared by Israel and Palestine as part of a two-state solution.

EU states should also "ensure that the location of their diplomatic missions remains in line with its provisions on location until the final status of Jerusalem is resolved," the report said, after Trump promised to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The EU report on Jerusalem is a yearly exercise meant to steer talks by ministers in Brussels.

The 2017 edition contained several new recommendations designed to hamper Trump's plan.

It urged EU capitals: to push their line on Jerusalem in all "bilateral and multilateral contacts" in 2018; to "unequivocally oppose" Israeli laws to alter the city's status; and to consider "development of further actions on distinguishing between the territory of the state of Israel and the occupied territories".

Previous EU actions included blocking grants for Israeli settler firms and publishing label guidelines for settler products sold in European retailers.

The 2017 report also called for "systematic media outreach in support of … [the] EU policy on Jerusalem".

It said high-level EU visits to the city should "ensure that logistics follow EU policy, e.g. through choice of hotel, change of transport between East and West", referring to Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem and Israel's West Jerusalem.

There was less violence in the city last year despite "confrontations" between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police after Trump's announcement, the EU text noted.

Thirteen Palestinians and seven Israelis were killed in violent incidents in total in Jerusalem in 2017, compared to 23 people the year before, and 41 the year before that.

Settler surge

But Israeli settlers were seizing Palestinian land at a "record" pace "including in areas identified by the EU and its member states as [being] key to the two-state solution", the EU report warned.

Israel advanced plans for more than 3,000 housing units in East Jerusalem last year, it said.

This added to the 215,000 settlers who have moved there since Israel conquered it in 1967 to live among the 317,000 Palestinians who are still left.

"Developments in 2016 to 2017 indicate that the Israeli authorities are taking active measures to prepare for settlement expansion in [the E1] area," the EU ambassadors added, referring to a zone that would cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of Palestine and would cut the West Bank into two cantons if it fell into settlers' hands.

The EU said Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had systematically ignored its appeals.

"International objections were met by more announcements [of settlement expansion]," the EU ambassadors said.

The diplomats also painted a grim picture of life under Israeli occupation.

They spoke of Israel's "long-standing policy of political, economic, and social marginalisation" of Palestinians, which "worsened" last year and which caused the kind of "high levels of stress and depression" that were fertile ground for violence.

They condemned killings on both sides, but singled out Israeli soldiers for "excessive use of force".

They also said Palestinian economic activity in East Jerusalem halved over the past 10 years and that 75 percent of Palestinians lived below the poverty line.

That figure rose to 84 percent for Palestinian children, half of whom dropped out of school.

"The city has largely ceased to be the Palestinian economic, urban, and commercial centre it used to be," the EU report said.

EU ambassadors meeting in the political and security committee in Brussels will discuss which of the recommendations, including a long-standing one to impose EU visa bans on "known violent settlers", to take forward.

Common message?

All the EU missions in East Jerusalem and Ramallah signed off the text, but that was no guarantee of European unity higher up the command chain.

When EU states voted on a UN resolution on 21 December which damned Trump's Jerusalem decision, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, and Romania abstained.

A UN survey said in January that EU corporations also disregarded EU diplomacy in "distinguishing" between Israeli and occupied territory.

It said there were 27 private firms from 10 EU states, including seven German companies and five Dutch ones, with links to Israel's "illegal" settler economy.

That figure compared to 22 from the US, the UN noted, confirming Europe's role as the settlers' number one business partner despite the diplomats' niceties.

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