Wednesday

22nd Nov 2017

Opinion

EU must act against 'Jerusalem Bill'

  • (Photo: Ted Eytan)

In response to handwringing and inaction by European leaders in the face of Israel's violations of international law, the Israeli government is emboldened to continue its illegal settlement expansion.

In recent months, the situation in Palestine has deteriorated considerably. Just last week, 176 new settlement units were announced to be built in occupied East Jerusalem.

Systematic residency revocations for Palestinians in Jerusalem are forcing people out of their lifelong communities. And now, the Knesset is considering an unprecedented bill that would annex some of the West Bank's largest illegal settlements to Jerusalem.

Dubbed the 'Greater Jerusalem' Bill, it constitutes a de facto annexation of settlements built on occupied Palestinian land and regarded as illegal by international law and the European Union.

Among the settlements included in the bill is Ma'aleh Adumim, the largest settlement in the Jerusalem area and the Gush Etzion settlement cluster. The bill is sponsored by a member of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right–wing Likud party and enjoys his backing.

The Greater Jerusalem Bill is an exercise in demographic change through annexation. Under the bill, the settlements' over 150,000 inhabitants would be considered residents of Jerusalem, enabling them to vote in and sway municipal elections.

It will also downgrade the status of three Palestinian neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, demoting the status of the approximately 100,000 Palestinians who live there - essentially creating Jerusalem's own Bantustans.

The bill's intention, according to its authors Israeli Knesset minister Yoav Kish and transportation minister Yisrael Katz, is two-fold: to increase the proportion of Jews to Palestinians in Jerusalem to ensure Jewish dominance of the city, and territorial expansion.

Katz openly expressed his intent for the bill to "ensure a Jewish majority in the united city and to expand its borders by adding 150,000 residents to the area of a greater Jerusalem," adding that it would serve as a response to all who question the Jewish people's right to the whole of Jerusalem as the capital of a Jewish homeland.

Demographic engineering

Demographic engineering is in clear violation of international law, as it uses manipulation of the makeup of the civilian population to accomplish political goals.

Currently, Palestinians make up nearly 40 percent the population of Jerusalem. If the bill passes, the addition of settler populations into Jerusalem's census will reduce that percentage to 32 percent.

It is a sinister way of ensuring that Jerusalem is washed of its Palestinian identity and, by extension, Palestinian rights and interests, while still calling itself democratic.

Enacting laws that are anti-democratic or violate international law, however, is not a rarity for Israel.

This February, the Knesset passed a law that retroactively legalises Israeli outposts built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. International calls to abandon the 'Regulation Law' proved futile, as the Knesset rapidly moved to pass it.

In response, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini issued an uncharacteristically bold condemnation for the law, stating that it "crosses a new and dangerous threshold" and concluding that its implementation would "further entrench a one-state reality of unequal rights, perpetual occupation and conflict."

This condemnation once again fell on deaf ears, doing nothing to alter the trajectory of Israel's actions. Palestinian human rights organisations, including my organisation, the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), warn that without concrete action, the Great Jerusalem Bill could face an eerily similar fate, with public outcry and condemnations proving to be little more than lip service that only delays the inevitable.

This should sound an alarm to European officials.

Not only do these actions undermine UN Security Council resolutions and EU Foreign Affairs Council conclusions, they erode the potency of international law as a whole. More so, they destroy the prospects of peace.

Despite discussions about renewing the peace talks, and the Palestinian reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo last month, measures like the Greater Jerusalem Bill undo any positive steps made toward solving the conflict.

Seize the moment

On Sunday, Israel's ministerial committee for legislation delayed its vote on the bill to reportedly allow time for "diplomatic preparation". European officials should seize the time offered by the delay to unequivocally condemn the Greater Jerusalem Bill and spell out real economic, political, and legal consequences of its passage.

This time, we need more than measured consideration and public statements. We need genuine action.

There are concrete steps officials can - and should - take to pressure Israel to act in accordance with international law. They include an end to preferential trade agreements so long as settlement activity continues and support for accountability mechanisms.

Given the serious prospect of annexation, the European Commission should immediately halt any discussion about holding the EU-Israel Association Council.

If the international community continues to remain silent in the face of Israeli violations, it will be very hard to undo the damage being done to the prospects of achieving justice and peace. European officials must stand tall and take the lead to stop the Greater Jerusalem Bill.

Issam Aruri is general director of the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center

Investigation

EU states copy Israel's 'predictive policing'

Israelis are using social profiling and predictive policing, also known as 'Facebook arrests', to crack down on suspects in Palestinian territories. National authorities in the EU, including the EU's police agency, Europol, are now applying the tactics closer to home.

The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik

If, as the EU claims, the Eastern Partnership summit is not a format for conflict resolution, where else will the security issues that hold the region back be resolved?

EU must confront Poland and Hungary

Curtailing NGOs and threatening judicial independence are the hallmarks of developing-world dictators and authoritarian strongmen, not a free and pluralistic European Union.

Mind the gap: inequality in our cities

Minimum wages, 'living' wages and a universal basic income are all part of the ongoing mix to find ways to reduce social inequality across the EU.

EU must confront Poland and Hungary

Curtailing NGOs and threatening judicial independence are the hallmarks of developing-world dictators and authoritarian strongmen, not a free and pluralistic European Union.

Mind the gap: inequality in our cities

Minimum wages, 'living' wages and a universal basic income are all part of the ongoing mix to find ways to reduce social inequality across the EU.

News in Brief

  1. December euro summit still on, Tusk confirms
  2. EU calls for end to Kenya election crisis
  3. Report: Israeli PM invited to meet EU ministers
  4. French banks close Le Pen accounts
  5. Commission relaxes rules on labelling free range eggs
  6. Commission issues €34m fine over car equipment cartel
  7. Estonian presidency 'delighted' with emissions trading vote
  8. Mladic found guilty of genocide and war crimes

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  2. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  3. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  4. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  6. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  7. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  9. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  10. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  11. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  12. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure

Latest News

  1. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  2. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'
  3. Commission warns Italy over high debt level
  4. Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes
  5. Uber may face fines in EU for keeping data breach secret
  6. EU counter-propaganda 'harms' relations, Russia says
  7. The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik
  8. Glyphosate: 1.3 million EU citizens call for ban

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  2. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  3. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  4. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  6. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  7. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  9. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Step Up Water Management Cooperation
  11. CECEMachinery Industry Calls for Joint EU Approach to Develop Digital Construction Sector
  12. EnelNo ETS Deal Means It Can Still Be Strengthened