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UK, France, Germany and Portugal condemn Israeli plan to build 1,000 new settlements homes

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The UK, France, Germany and Portugal – the EU members of the 15-seat UN Security Council (Germany and Portugal are rotating members, the UK and France are permanent members) issued a joint statement today requesting that Israel cease all settlement construction in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank. 

The statement reiterates the EU position that the settlements are illegal under international law and calls upon the Israeli government to halt “all settlement activity.” Israel has, since this summer, been ramping up settlement construction throughout the West Bank and especially, in East Jerusalem. Recent housing disputes over Palestinian-owned East Jerusalem have prompted much debate within Israel and the U.S. 

The report coincides with a statement by Catherine Ashton, a British MP who serves as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, calling on Israel to “suspend publication” of a tender seeking construction bids for 1,000 new Israeli housing units in East Jerusalem, Beitar Ilit and Givat Ze’ev.

The English-language version of the statement is reproduced below. It was posted on the website of the UK’s UN Mission: 

“We have just heard a briefing from Mr Fernandez-Taranco about the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories. One of the themes that emerged was the severely damaging effect that increased settlement construction and settler violence is having on the ground and on the prospects of a return to negotiations. The UK, France, Germany and Portugal are dismayed by these wholly negative developments.

Israel’s continuing announcements to accelerate the construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, send a devastating message. We call on the Israeli government to reverse these steps. The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel’s long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements. Settlements are illegal under international law and represent a serious blow to the Quartet’s efforts to restart peace negotiations. All settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem, must cease immediately.

We condemn the disturbing escalation of violence by settlers including the burning of the Nebi Akasha mosque in West Jerusalem and the Burqa mosque in the West Bank. It is clear that these deliberately provocative attacks on places of worship were designed to aggravate tensions. We welcome the condemnation of these attacks by Israeli leaders, and call on the Israeli government to fulfil its commitment to bring the perpetrators to justice and to put an end to impunity. The package of measures announced by Prime Minister Netanyahu in response to settler violence goes in the right direction. We look forward to seeing the results of these measures, and to seeing those behind the violence punished to the full extent of the law.

A bold demonstration of political will and leadership is needed from both sides to break the current impasse. We call the parties to present as soon as possible to the Quartet comprehensive proposals on territory and security, following its statement of September 23rd. We look to both parties to return to negotiations as soon as possible. We remain ready to contribute to achieving the goal of successful negotiations.

We continue to be seriously concerned about the current stalemate in the Middle East Peace Process. Our primary goal remains a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are committed to working to turn this ambition into reality: the creation of a sovereign, independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living in peace and security side by side with Israel.

For those negotiations to be successful, they will need to achieve four things:

An agreement on the borders of the two states, based on June 4 1967 lines with equivalent land swaps agreed between the parties.

Second, security arrangements that respect Palestinian sovereignty and show that the occupation is over, and that protect Israeli security, preventing the resurgence of terrorism and dealing effectively with new and emerging threats.

Third, a just, fair and agreed solution to the refugee question.
And fourth, fulfilment of the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem. Through negotiations, the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states must be resolved.

We believe that Israel’s security and the realisation of the Palestinians’ right to statehood are not opposing goals. On the contrary they are mutually reinforcing objectives. But they will not be achieved while settlement building and settler violence continues.”

Paul Mutter

Paul Mutter is a contributor to Mondoweiss, Foreign Policy in Focus and the Arabist.

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33 Responses

  1. pabelmont on December 20, 2011, 8:24 pm

    Nice report, but — if it remains no more — a joke. It speaks of a return to negotiations, but that is obvious false fluff. It condemns the illegalities, properly of course, but does NOT offer to DO anything.

    A court which is not prepared to enforce the law is a farce. The ICJ 2004 decision on the wall need not have been a farce, because the UNGA had asked for the decision and could (and should) have acted on it. But the UNGA did not. And the EU nations have not yet acted.

    Of course, Israel may well continue with its delightful bad acts — indeed, it must do so under present Israeli-internal political circumstances — and this might just possibly cause EU to DO SOMETHING, but they’ve had 44 years of practice looking the other way and can be expected to continue on that easy path.

    I guess my opinion is just grousing.

    Sorry, friends.

    • Tristan on December 21, 2011, 12:26 am

      One wonders why they bother opening their mouths. They never back their words with financial or diplomatic action. We know it. Israel knows it. Why indeed would Israel do anything, knowing it’s just empty talk? So, this isn’t a rhetorical question, why keep asking Israel to behave? Who do they think they’re placating?

      • Hostage on December 21, 2011, 2:26 am

        They never back their words with financial or diplomatic action.

        The Knesset seems to know that the EU countries are funding the human rights NGOs that are petitioning the Israeli High Court of Justice on behalf of Palestinians. They also learned that sort of thing was an integral part of the 2005 EU-Israeli Association Agreement and that they could kiss it goodbye if they keep tinkering with laws that effect the NGOs. I do wish they could talk the hold-out states into doing something a lot more official and pro-active too.

      • Erasmus on December 21, 2011, 6:41 pm

        Re: Hostage : December 21, 2011 at 2:26 am

        Subject: The EU never doing anything other than being concerned or being very concerned and other bla-blas….
        It is all over and ever again the same shame story:
        While Mdm. Ashton has earned the title of the EU-Chief ” deep regretter” and “ever very concerner”, the European Commission and the EU-member states do nothing on the action front. It is all empty words. But those in plenty.
        However, only few days ago the European Investment Bank which is the EU’s financing institution has signed a EUR 120 million credit for the construction of a seawater desalination plant in Ashdod with Bank Hapoalim, which in turn will on-lend the funds to Ashdod Desalination Ltd, a fully owned subsidiary of Mekorot = Israel’s National Water Company.
        Crocodile tears over the murder of Mustafa Tamimi at Babi Saleh (see: and statements like this recent one coming from UK, France, Portugal and even (sic) Germany , made in the hundreds or more in the past, could not and have not impressed any GoI so far.
        Israelis and their government need to feel concrete consequences (above all: economic sanctions) for their decades-long blatantly ignoring international law, committing HR-violations and their domestic policies of discrimination and racism.
        On the personal level -we have choice as consumers and can Boycott Israeli products and services; as a priority, all peace-loving Christians should DELAY their Israel travel and “pilgrimage” plans until a satisfactory final agreement with the Palestinians will have been concluded. Such a Travel Boycott will hurt and effectively promote political awareness…….it may take only 2-3 years of a consequent Christian “Holy Land” Israel Travel Boycott, and first results will likely to be seen.
        Likewise, on a political level, a temporary suspension of the EU-Israeli Association Agreement would go a loooong way. The agreement states in its Article 2 :
        Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.
        It is obvious that since long Israel has grossly failed to live up to its obligations under the Association Agreement, giving the European Community the right to take appropriate measures according to its Article 79.
        So far, the Europe’s politicians have been divided on the issue of their Israel Policy, paying only endless lip service without any serious follow-through in terms of action and applying double standards. One wonders whether they can be carried to take any palpable action.
        Question to international lawyers :
        Is there any legal possibility to file a law suit against the European Commission on the grounds of their INACTIVITY ???

  2. HarryLaw on December 20, 2011, 8:27 pm

    Fine words but when asked what sanctions they are going to implement against continuing Israeli intransigence,they will say ‘sanctions’ of course not we do good business with our friend Israel, and by the way did you know they have 300 nuclear weapons.

    • Citizen on December 21, 2011, 6:19 am

      Yes, HarryLaw, Ron Paul told Americans that Israel had 300 nuclear weapons, and can defend itself without help from the US–on prime time cable TV broadcast of the GOP candidate debate a few days ago.

      I keep waiting for our MSM to get into some of the details of Ron Paul’s wonderfully truthful Iowa debate take on our wars and foreign aid–so far, no luck.

      • Dan Crowther on December 21, 2011, 9:12 am

        yea, contrast that with Obama when Helen Thomas asked in “if he knew of any states in the Middle East that had nuclear weapons?”

        he responed: uhh, well, i, uhh, wouldnt want to speculate

        ( I think it was his very first presser)

  3. Nevada Ned on December 20, 2011, 10:07 pm

    This declaration will be brushed aside by Israel as inconsequential because there no teeth in it. What will the Quartet do when Israel continues to ignore international law and world public opinion?


    But what if the quartet (instead of seeking to restart the fruitless negotiations) instead declared economic sanctions against Israel?

    That would definitely get Netenyahu’s attention!

    • john h on December 20, 2011, 11:07 pm

      What will the Quartet do?

      The Quartet is a nonentity.

      None of the four are prepared to do anything concrete.

      The US is just a pathetic hypocrite and the UN isn’t that much better; just a fig leaf that says much and doesn’t even wave a big stick, let alone use one.

      What if? Yeah, what if pigs could fly…

      • on December 20, 2011, 11:59 pm

        How can anyone expect from the EU leadership that destroyed ,within a very short time ,once thriving economy of Europe, to create something good, constructive, positive??
        I sooner expect the Amazonian tribes to create a nano-computer than the EU to create anything of value for the average human beings.

  4. American on December 20, 2011, 10:36 pm

    Calling on Israel to do or cease anything is pointless.
    More convinced than ever that Israel will be destroyed…..they think they are unstoppable and totally free to do anything they please…..they will never last.

  5. on December 20, 2011, 10:55 pm

    Oh, very touching. I almost shed a tear.
    The EU- gulag is waving its mighty finger with a disapproval ,and saying:
    “you naughty Israel, ‘return to negotiations table ASAP’. Let’s continue this neverending circus called ” peace negotiations” for another 60+ years.
    By then, the problem may dissolve naturally.”
    Let’s not forget that German did not supported recent UNESCO /Palestine bid, UK and Portugal were “absentees”.

  6. annie on December 20, 2011, 11:38 pm

    amen..please step up to the plate europe, america is on a down turn. palestine needs you. world peace needs you, higher minds and souls needs you..please someone take over, i am begging you.

    • LeaNder on December 21, 2011, 5:42 am

      amen..please step up to the plate europe, america is on a down turn.
      If the US empire will decline, this will have enormous consequences in Europe. We are closely related it feels.

      EU-Israeli Association Agreement

      I think this is essential. People over here in the EU demand for quite some time now that Israel stops distributing products from the occupied territories under the label “made in Israel”.

      Since this association agreement exists you can get art projects sponsored that have a Israeli partner, you usually need at least two cooperative partners in other EU states. I friend of mine here in Cologne got her project sponsored, in her project Israel was one of four parties, countries.

      Israel’s latest legislative context should indeed bother the EU. Obviously they cannot do much but it is a sign that matters may indeed be changing slowly. [disclosure: I am more and more infected by the optimism of the “Mondoweissians”]

      I discovered this today: Global Palestine, new publication by: John Collins It feels his context/perspective has been on the minds of many of us here.

    • Bumblebye on December 21, 2011, 6:53 am

      Annie, this is much bigger than a handful of EU states.
      It’s ALL the regional and political groupings on the UN Security Council.
      They couldn’t issue a single press release because that would incur a US veto.
      They also condemn settler and right wing violence.

  7. ToivoS on December 21, 2011, 12:06 am

    There is one implied threat in this otherwise empty statement. These are four current members of the security council that are lined up to vote against Palestinian representation in the UN. If they changed their votes it would force the US to exercise its veto against an overwhelming majority inside the SC. If that were to happen it would hurt the US much more than Israel so I think the message is directed towards Washington. Just an idea. But what would be the point. The US has no influence over Israeli policy.

    • piotr on December 21, 2011, 2:15 am

      European politics move with the agility of glaciers, but I perceive a looming collision.

      On one hand, Europeans tend to stick to some rather formalistic markers that can be easily circumvented with a touch of hypocrisy. On the other hand, Israel and to some degree, domestic US politics are in the grips of some escalation that propel “in your face” actions.

      Because EU operates with veto powers, sanctions on Israel are almost impossible. But that “almost” is wearing thin. What are the political forces in Europe that lead to accommodation with any Israeli conduct, however radical? There are two. One is that for a certain right wing or “moderate” type of ruling parties following USA is an axiom. Second is anti-Muslim xenophobia.

      Following USA is less and less meaningful, because Administration almost visibly gags any time it obediently vetos resolutions criticising Israel. And the governments that are most reliable pro-Israel vetos in EU may change their position without any domestic consequences — population in, say, Lithuania or Poland simply does not care what is happening between the Semites.

  8. john h on December 21, 2011, 12:30 am

    Are these European nations aware of this statement, made in March 2010?

    Noted Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld stated that Israel could find itself one day forced to exterminate the European continent using all kinds of weapons, including its nuclear arsenal if it felt its demise neared, stressing that Israel also considers Europe a hostile target.

    • RoHa on December 21, 2011, 2:36 am

      That’s right. We are all enemies.

      Israel is prepared to kill us all. That is, if it hasn’t already killed us all with its Stuxnet and Duqu malware.

    • piotr on December 21, 2011, 3:10 am

      Richard Silverstein was disputing that “quote’ or “paraphrase”.

      In any case, it is not a credible threat in the kind of situation we are discussing.

    • ToivoS on December 21, 2011, 5:12 am

      I do believe that van Creveld really said this. Doesn’t matter. As horrible as many people think, the release of 300 nuclear bombs will not destroy life on earth. It will definitely kill a lot of people, but life on earth will continue.

      Unfortunately I have done some of the calculations on the destructive powers of nuclear weapons. If Israel used all of their weapons against Europe they could not possibly kill more than about 10 % of all Europeans. That may sound horrible. But if Israel unleashed such a weapon, I do not believe the state of Israel would survive, but Europe would.

    • LeaNder on December 21, 2011, 7:11 am

      John h, these are the kind of cameleon “news”, that I would advise you to be very careful about. They surfaced with slight modifications after they were first treated as “news” in 2003, if I remember correctly. It feels the story was initially distributed via IAP first, and extensively covered in the US by, e.g. here: Israeli Professor – ‘We Could Destroy All European Capitals’

      Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP)

      As piotr suggests, you should read this: Martin van Crevald victim of intellectual fraud.

      • john h on December 21, 2011, 2:22 pm

        Fair point, LeaNder.

        I found it and posted and then did some research. I did find the Silverstein piece but I think by then it was too late to delete or edit.

        However, I also saw that van Crevald was apparently such a highly regarded historian who had made a lot of statements over the years. One of these is part of Wikipedia’s outline of the Samson option.

        In any case, what do you make of what Silverstein wrote? Intellectual fraud?

    • seafoid on December 21, 2011, 8:57 am

      Van Creveld is nuts.
      Europe can stop the ATMs in Israel from functioning. That sort of action concentrates the mind wonderfully.

    • Woody Tanaka on December 21, 2011, 11:09 am

      “Are these European nations aware of this statement, made in March 2010?”

      Like a direct threat against our NATO Allies by a hostile regime. I think that a full-scale nuclear preemptive attack, under the Bush doctrine, is in order. Better the destruction of all of Israel than to risk a mushroom cloud over Rome, Athens or the other birthplaces of Western Civilization….

  9. Citizen on December 21, 2011, 6:29 am

    I’ve never heard a detailed discussion of the Israeli settlements or occupation on US popular mainstream TV news or news-entertainment shows, nothing beyond a minute or so mentioning the settlements and vaguely implying they are some sort of problem the Palestinians keep bringing up. I’d bet my life most Americans know nothing about the issue and its importance beyond that.

    • seafoid on December 21, 2011, 8:58 am

      That is the way it is designed to be, citizen.
      The first time i went to the West Bank I couldn’t believe the difference between what I was seeing and what I thought I knew.

      Most regular guys and gals have no idea how sick war is either.

  10. Avi_G. on December 21, 2011, 8:04 am

    Expecting the government’s of the West to suddenly find their moral compass is futile.

    Money talks.

    If the corrupt US client rulers in the Middle East wanted to, they could have used oil as leverage against Europe. Unlike the US, Europe gets more than 35% of its oil from North Africa and the Middle East.

  11. seafoid on December 21, 2011, 9:02 am

    The buying of the Saudis and the break up of the power of the OPEC cartel in the years after the 1973 Egypt-Israel war and subsequent oil crisis was was the most important win for US diplomacy over the last 40 years.

  12. on December 21, 2011, 9:03 am

    Some people here DON’T SEEM to grasp the seriousness of the current situation in Europe. They still think that Europe is some kind of blooming democracy and oasis of peace, prosperity and justice. THAT’s GONE.
    Europe is being, as we speak , pushed financially/economically off the cliff ,and the EU dictatorship is slowly changing its fake, smiling facade of a nice guy, into cruel, ruthless face of a dictator.
    Do you really believe the the EU cares for any common, average person ,be it in Europe ,America or Middle East.????
    Dream on.

  13. on December 21, 2011, 9:53 am

    Here a very good recent interview with Godfrey Bloom. Maybe some will benefit from listening to it.

  14. MHughes976 on December 21, 2011, 11:10 am

    Just to mention that Catherine Ashton is not an MP but a member of the House of Lords. We are the world’s leading feudal country, you know.
    I think that the EU, currently in serious difficulties, would like to do lots more business with the Muslim world and Israel for its part would like closer relations with the EU, even membership. So there is some genuine scope for pressure on Israel and genuine self-interested reason for the EU to apply some pressure – and I don’t think wild talk about nuking everyone would do Israel much good. But self-interest alone, without that good old black magic of a moral vision, gets you only so far. Our leaders in the EU seem (I don’t entirely share Dum’s extreme distaste for them) to be rather odd people with far too many problems of their own to do anything much for the human race.
    What they’re saying is better than nothing but not much.

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