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EU condemns Israeli settlement construction, evictions
Published Monday 14/05/2012 (updated) 15/05/2012 19:51
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Men walk near Israeli flags in Ulpana, on the edge of the West Bank Jewish
settlement of Beit El, north of Ramallah. (Reuters/Nir Elias, File)
By Sebastian Moffett and Justyna Pawlak

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- Israeli settlement building and curbs on economic development in the occupied West Bank risk wrecking Palestinian hopes of creating their own state, the European Union said on Monday.

Clearly frustrated by long-stalled peace talks, European Union foreign ministers issued a detailed statement, accusing Israel of accelerating settlement construction and tightening its control over East Jerusalem at the expense of Palestinians.

Israel condemned the report as "biased" and said it would do nothing to help promote peace in the region.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in late 2010 in a dispute over Jewish settlement building in the West Bank, and Palestinians say talks cannot resume unless such construction is frozen.

Israel says there should be no pre-conditions for talks and last year intensified its settlement program after the Palestinians won a seat at the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, as part of its campaign to seek broad, statehood recognition.

"The EU expresses deep concern about developments on the ground, which threaten to make a two-state solution impossible," EU foreign ministers said in a statement after a meeting.

The bloc also criticized what it said were worsening conditions for the Palestinians living in Area C -- the 60 percent of the West Bank which is under Israeli control and where most Jewish settlements are located.

EU ministers said Israel was forcing some Bedouin communities to leave their land in Area C, adding that economic life for Palestinians in the territory had to be improved.

"The EU calls upon Israel to meet its obligations regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian population in Area C, including ... halting forced transfer of population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure," it said.

EU diplomats in Jerusalem have been incensed by Israel's destruction of projects in Area C that had received EU backing.

According to data collected by international aid groups, at least 62 structures funded by the EU and its member states were demolished by Israel in 2011 and 2012, including water cisterns, animal shelters, and agricultural and residential buildings.

In addition, over 110 structures are at risk after receiving demolition or stop-work orders from Israeli authorities, said the so-called Displacement Working Group, which joins together NGOs and international bodies operating in the West Bank.

Israel says it issues demolition orders for projects that failed to receive planning permission. The EU said the Israeli bureaucracy had to be simplified.

"The EU will continue to provide financial assistance for Palestinian development in Area C and expects such investment to be protected for future use," the statement said.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a sharp riposte.

"The (EU) conclusions ... include a long list of claims and criticism which are based on a partial, biased and one-sided depiction of realities on the ground. Such a public presentation does not contribute to advancing the process," it said.

Israel retains military authority and full control over building and planning in Area C. Up to 70 percent of it is off-limits for Palestinians, classified as Israeli settlement areas, firing zones, or nature reserves, NGOs say.

In the remaining 30 percent there are restrictions that reduce the possibility for Palestinians to get building permits.

The EU also reiterated its commitment to Israel's security on Monday and said it was "appalled" by rocket attacks from Gaza, which is governed by Hamas.

Europe is the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority, which has limited self-rule in the West Bank. However, Europe's leverage is limited, with its aid program far outweighed by Washington's economic and military support for Israel.

The Israeli armed forces have destroyed 49.14 million euros ($65.08 million) worth of EU-funded development projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the last 10 years, according to European Commission figures seen by Reuters in April.

A tenth of the damage occurred during Israel's bombardment and incursion into the Gaza strip in 2008-9. Another large proportion coincided with the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israel last decade.
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1 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
14/05/2012 22:04
Silly Europeans, "appalled" at rocket attacks from Hamastan, but with their heads in the ground not realizing that there can be no peace, nor peace talks, nor Palestinian state so long as Hamas controls Gaza and Fatah controls the west bank.

2 ) betz55 / USA
14/05/2012 22:46
"Israel says there should be no pre-conditions " - There are no pre-conditions - ceasing settlement activity is an obligation that israel agreed to when it signed on to Oslo, and the Roadmap. israel is using the "pre-condition" BS as a way to stall negotiations and settling for peace. What fools, they can't admit that the Palestinians are already winning and will prevail in the end. Idiots.

3 ) Robert / US
14/05/2012 23:04
More empty talk !!. Just shut up !! Europe and the US are the backers of these killers,thieves,cheats,and backs apartheid

4 ) betz55 / USA
15/05/2012 00:24
Memo to the EU - start sanctioning israel and start treating them like you did South Africa. Enough is enough!

5 ) Reality / 101
15/05/2012 01:36
The EU should condemn the PA's refusing to even talk, much less negotiate, and compromise, towards peace agreement.

6 ) southparkbear / usa
15/05/2012 05:24
very good. now that you have muttered these words to please you taliban constituents go back and deal with Greek

7 ) Outsider / EU
15/05/2012 10:09
"Israel condemned the report as "biased" and said it would do nothing to help promote peace in the region." Unlike the demolitions and settlement expansions, I suppose? If Israel has damaged €49 worth of EU development projects, they should deduct that amount from the support it gives Israel's research programmes.

8 ) Tibi / Tubas
16/05/2012 03:07
"The international community already paid its historic debt", to the Jewish people, creating a Jewish state, on the ancient ancestral homeland of the Jewish People - The Children of Yacoub. And, just like Ishaag that could NOT give to Esau, what was already given, the International community can NOT give the Land to us !!! Esau's home then, and our state now is in the state of Jordan, and if King Hussein must go, that's OK with me !!!

9 ) @ Betz-2 / USA too
16/05/2012 03:10
What about all the "activities that are obligations that the PLO agreed to: - ending incitement, - collecting weapons, - NO days of rage (Intifada 2), - NO terror (rockets from Gaza), - NEGOTIATIONS !!!!!

10 ) Business / Israel
16/05/2012 03:23
I think the EU should be worried about the EU. These bureaucrats may soon be out of work. Then who will pay them to write the same report criticizing Israel over and over? Poor bureaucrats - soon they may have to work for a living. Wouldn't that be a shame?

11 ) Lukas / AntiZionist
16/05/2012 11:14
EU issues empty statements. Maybe its time to boycott Israelistan, you coward politicians and technocrats?

12 ) Zionist / AntiLukAss
16/05/2012 13:26
The EU should condemn the Arabs for building on Israeli land. What is Israeli land was defined back in the 1920's by the San Remo agreement, which was later ratified by the League of Nations. It includes all of Judea and Samaria. Now occupied by a fictitious Arab tribe, calling themselves Palestinians. Even the terrorist occupiers of Gaza [Hamas] have admitted that these "so called" Palestinians are from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen etc.
Send these Apartheid Arabs back to their fatherlands.
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