Saturday, March 07, 2009

Israel annexing East Jerusalem, says EU.

As the Obama regime, represented in this instance by Hillary Clinton, finally chide Israel for her shocking behaviour in East Jerusalem, a new confidential EU report is accusing Israel of "settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and [using] the West Bank barrier as a way of "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem."

The document says Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority's credibility and weakening support for peace talks. "Israel's actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making," says the document, EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem.

The report, obtained by the Guardian, is dated 15 December 2008. It acknowledges Israel's legitimate security concerns in Jerusalem, but adds: "Many of its current illegal actions in and around the city have limited security justifications."

"Israeli 'facts on the ground' - including new settlements, construction of the barrier, discriminatory housing policies, house demolitions, restrictive permit regime and continued closure of Palestinian institutions - increase Jewish Israeli presence in East Jerusalem, weaken the Palestinian community in the city, impede Palestinian urban development and separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank," the report says.

The document has emerged at a time of mounting concern over Israeli policies in East Jerusalem. Two houses were demolished on Monday just before the arrival of the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and a further 88 are scheduled for demolition, all for lack of permits. Clinton described the demolitions as "unhelpful", noting that they violated Israel's obligations under the US "road map" for peace.

The EU report goes further, saying that the demolitions are "illegal under international law, serve no obvious purpose, have severe humanitarian effects, and fuel bitterness and extremism." The EU raised its concern in a formal diplomatic representation on December 1, it says.

This was the problem with the Road Map that George Bush drew up. It always allowed Israel to duck out of it's obligations as long as Israel could point to Palestinian rockets falling on southern Israel and claim that the Palestinians weren't keeping their part of the bargain.

This, of course, misses the major point that the more of Palestine Israel steals, the more likely it is that rockets will fall.

It really is a chicken and egg situation.

Elsewhere in the peace process Israel can claim that she can find no-one to negotiate with and a host of other excuses, but in East Jerusalem her policies of settlement and expansion are most obvious.

Although Palestinians in the east represent 34% of the city's residents, only 5%-10% of the municipal budget is spent in their areas, leaving them with poor services and infrastructure.

Israel issues fewer than 200 permits a year for Palestinian homes and leaves only 12% of East Jerusalem available for Palestinian residential use. As a result many homes are built without Israeli permits. About 400 houses have been demolished since 2004 and a further 1,000 demolition orders have yet to be carried out, it said.

City officials dismissed criticisms of its housing policy as "a disinformation campaign".

These city officials, who claim that Israel are allowing construction "equally without bias", are ignoring one major point even as they make this claim. There should be no Israeli construction in East Jerusalem.

The Fourth Geneva Convention could not be any clearer on this point:
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Everything which Israel is doing in East Jerusalem and across the Occupied Territories, in terms of settlement of it's own population on to land which is part of Palestine, is illegal. Israel has always known this as the UN have made it painstakingly clear that they do not accept Israel's argument on this subject.

And Israel's illegal actions in East Jerusalem have actually sped up since the beginning of George Bush's Road Map.

The EU says settlement are being built in the east of the city at a "rapid pace". Since the Annapolis peace talks began in late 2007, nearly 5,500 new settlement housing units have been submitted for public review, with 3,000 so far approved, the report says. There are now about 470,000 settlers in the occupied territories, including 190,000 in East Jerusalem.

The EU is particularly concerned about settlements inside the Old City, where there were plans to build a Jewish settlement of 35 housing units in the Muslim quarter, as well as expansion plans for Silwan, just outside the Old City walls.

The goal, it says, is to "create territorial contiguity" between East Jerusalem settlements and the Old City and to "sever" East Jerusalem and its settlement blocks from the West Bank.

It's impossible to believe that Israel is serious about the Road Map whilst she continues to steal Palestinian land at such a pace. For the past eight years the policies of George W Bush utterly ignored such behaviour from Israel. We can only hope that Clinton's remarks mark the beginning of a new era of US/Israeli relations and that the Obama administration are going to insist that Israel abides by international law.

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