Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Opinion

US Jerusalem move is chance for EU leadership

  • Trump's unilateral decision helps legitimise an ongoing attempt to increase the Jewish Israeli population of Jerusalem (Photo: Flickmor)

The US administration's brazen recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was met with global shock and condemnation.

It is now imperative the EU translate its words into action, making clear that the EU will not support president Donald Trump's announcement and will take concrete steps to end complicity in Israel's shameless flouting of international law.

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As the stakes of Israeli violations continue to rise, the world needs EU leadership now more than ever.

The international community has shared consensus that Israeli claims over Jerusalem are illegal for seven decades.

The US announcement disrupted that international consensus.

As Palestinians, we fear the announcement will embolden Israel to intensify its unlawful annexation of our lands and wanton human rights violations against us.

Over the longest military occupation in modern history, Israel has sought to assert control over Jerusalem through land-grabs, disenfranchisement of Palestinian rights, and demographic change.

Forcible population transfers, denial of Palestinian building permits, residency status revocations, home demolitions and property confiscations have become daily occurrences for Palestinians in Jerusalem.

In 2017 alone, 126 Palestinian structures were demolished, which resulted of the displacement 239 people, 115 of whom are children, while 17 Jerusalemites had their residency rights revoked - including two children.

Knesset vote

Only months ago, the Knesset was set to vote on the Greater Jerusalem Bill.

The bill would annex some of the West Bank's largest settlements into Jerusalem's borders, adding 150,000 Israeli settlers to Israel's voting population and exacerbating the already illegal transfer of the settler population to occupied territory.

Conversely, it would demote the status of certain Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem to "sub-municipalities."

The objective of the Greater Jerusalem Bill is to serve Israel's long-term plan of altering the demographic character of Jerusalem to achieve a 70 percent majority of Israeli Jews to a 30 percent minority of Palestinians.

Its implementation would be an egregious violation of international law, yet it enjoys the public support of Netanyahu and the far-right Likud Party.

The US recognition of Jerusalem gives a green light to policies like the Greater Jerusalem Bill, serving only to embolden further demographic engineering, land grabs, and violation of Palestinian rights.

The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC) aims to challenge Israel's long-standing pattern of human rights violations against Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Palestinian civil society organisations like JLAC have long sought to challenge Israel's ongoing litany of abuses against the Palestinian people and flagrant disregard of international law.

But we cannot do it alone.

In response to President Trump's announcement, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has made clear that the EU will not follow the US in recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

While this is an important step, the EU and its member states should now take concrete action to uphold its own obligations under international law and hold Israel to account.

President Trump's Jerusalem announcement provides an opportunity for EU member states. It is in the interest of the EU itself to act on it.

As a start, clear messaging against the Greater Jerusalem Bill and daily human rights violations in Jerusalem, vocal rejection of the US decision, and unified support for UN resolutions reaffirming the international consensus of Jerusalem as a shared capital will ensure that the US is isolated in its decision.

Just this week, the UN Security Council voted 14-1 in favour of a resolution that would have affirmed that the US announcement has no legal effect and demanded that the US reverse its decision.

The US, standing alone, wielded its veto to block an otherwise unanimous decision— but its isolation was apparent.

Possible EU steps

Now, with a similar resolution set to move to a vote in an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly, EU states have another opportunity to act with unity and consensus to reiterate its adherence to international law.

Furthermore, the EU has an obligation to ensure that its own policies do not constitute cooperation with Israel's illegal occupation.

The EU should set an example for the rest of the international community by ensuring that any Israeli-EU cooperation does not contribute to illegal settlements nor human rights violations.

Any meetings of the EU-Israel Association Council should be postponed until Israel commits to upholding its legal obligations.

Furthermore, the EU should avoid deepening political and economic cooperation with Israel until it demonstrates its commitment to ending its occupation.

These steps would send a clear message that the EU will not be complicit in Israel's ongoing crimes.

The US announcement is the latest development in a decades-long Israeli policy of creeping annexation. But with the spotlight on Jerusalem, it is also an opportunity for unified, effective, and decisive EU action.

For peace to be possible, the EU must step up to take the lead.

Rami Saleh is director of the Jerusalem branch of the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center

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