Friday

22nd Mar 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

Germany: trust in Israel 'profoundly shaken'

Germany and France have spoken out in strident terms against Israel’s plan to confiscate privately-owned Palestinian land by legalising settler outposts.

Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Jan Zahradil, EU Commission president Spitzenkandidat for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, responds to Emmaneul Macron's European vision ahead of the May elections.

A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension

At this week's summit, EU leaders should extend Article 50 until the May European elections. But they should postpone the effective date of the UK's withdrawal from EU rights, rules, and regulations for another year - to May 2020.

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Italy should capitalise on Brexit

Now that the UK is leaving, Italy can, and should, step up. It is the third largest country and economy in the EU. Spain and Poland follow, but they are significantly smaller economically and population-wise.

The Magnitsky Act - and its name

It is disappointing that so many MEPs in the Socialist and Green group caved in to Russian interests, in fear of challenging a plutocratic regime, by saying 'no' to naming the Magnitsky legislation by its rightful name: Magnitsky.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us