Tuesday

26th Jan 2021

EU red-flags Israel's Givat Hamatos settlement

  • Givat Hamatos of 'huge concern', EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

New Israeli settlements around Jerusalem could do more harm to Middle East peace than Israel's recent deals with Arab states did good, EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell has indicated.

"The Givat Hamatos tender, the first new settlement in occupied-East Jerusalem in 20 years, is of huge concern", Borrell told MEPs in the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday (24 November), referring to one Israeli project.

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He singled out Givat Hamatos because, if built, it would almost cut off East Jerusalem from Palestinians in the West Bank, making a two-state solution hard to imagine.

But it was just one of several new settlements, which Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was trying to ram through before US president Donald Trump, his ally, left the White House in January.

The "spike" in settlements and in demolitions of Palestinian structures meant the EU would continue its freeze on upgrading Israel diplomatic relations, Borrell noted.

And Netanyahu was still threatening to annex parts of the West Bank in future, Borrell said.

"Israel's annexation plans still need to be abandoned, not suspended temporarily, but abandoned, abandoned altogether," the EU's top diplomat said.

"There will never be peace and stability in the region [Middle East] without a comprehensive settlement of the [Arab-Israeli] conflict," he said.

Israel recently made history by agreeing to normalise relations with Gulf Arab states Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as with Sudan.

There "may be more" such accords in future, Borrell said, after Netanyahu also visited Saudi Arabia.

And they "could have a positive effect on ... regional stability," Borrell added.

But Europe did not believe the Israeli-Arab accords reflected a deep reconciliation, he indicated.

They "reflected a transactional rather than a transformative approach," Borrell said on Tuesday.

"The UAE and Bahrain have never been at war with Israel, so to call them 'peace deals' might be an exaggeration," he said, referring to some MEPs' views on the so-called Abraham Accords.

"Maybe this strategy reflects a deeper polarisation in the Arab world, where mostly Sunni [Muslim] Arab states consider [Shia Muslim] Iran along with political Islam as a more serious threat in the region and are thus more likely to enter into cooperation with Israel," he added.

Bahrain got access to US F-35 fighter-jet technology as part of its transaction, Borrell noted.

And Trump got Sudan got off the US terrorism list, unlocking foreign investment, he added.

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