Israel’s land seizure undermines Palestinian state prospects – EU

© Darren Whiteside
The European Union has joined the chorus of international condemnation of Israel’s latest massive land appropriation in the West Bank, claiming that such a move hinders the process towards a to a two-state solution and prospects of peace with Palestinians.

“Israel’s decision to declare 234 hectares near Jericho in Area C of the West Bank as state land is a further step that risks undermining the viability of a future Palestinian state and therefore calls into question Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution,” the EU said in a statement. 

The news of the seizure of 579 acres (234 hectares) near the Dead Sea and the Palestinian city of Jericho, was reported by Israel's Peace Now movement on Tuesday.

According to Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the confiscation on March 10, was made in accordance with “the decision of the political level and the examining of the professional authorities” which have declared the territory to be “state lands.”

The land now in Israeli possession and unless a 45 day appeal process goes through will be used to expand Jewish settlements and for building tourism and other commercial facilities. The EU condemned such activities.

“Any decision that could enable further settlement expansion, which is illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace, will only drive the parties to the conflict even further apart,” the EU said.

“The European Union remains firmly opposed to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, including demolitions and confiscations, evictions, forced transfers or restrictions on movement and access,” the statement added.

Brussels is the latest international entity to have condemned the land seizure, the biggest since August 2010, when Israel confiscated almost 1,000 acres in the West Bank. The United Nations and the US were the first to speak out against the latest appropriation on Tuesday.

UK, Germany and France followed suit in condemning the seizure of territory. The UK’s Foreign Office said that such “steps clearly damage the diminishing prospects for a two state solution,” as the office called on Israel to “end to settlement expansion, which is illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.”

“This decision sends a wrong signal at the wrong time,” the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Paris said that it was said “extremely concerned” by the Israeli decision.

“Settlements constitute a violation of international law and contradict commitments made by Israeli authorities in favor of a two-state solution,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said.

After the collapse of the US sponsored Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in 2014, France is taking an active role to bring together the conflicting parties for an international peace conference. The aim is to gather international delegations before May that would outline incentives and give guarantees for Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations sometime before August.

On Monday Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the French proposal, yet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined the proposition saying he would prefer direct talks with the Palestinians without any pre-conditions.

“The Israeli side emphasized the importance of direct, bilateral negotiations, with no prior conditions between the parties and the (Palestinian Authority's) responsibility to combat terror and incitement,” the Israeli Foreign Ministry statement said.