The European Union is targeting Jewish construction in Jerusalem, calling it “systematic, deliberate and provocative.” Building projects in the eastern portion of Israel’s capital city are part of a strategy aimed at preventing the holy city from being divided and used as the capital for two states, the EU’s “Jerusalem Report 2012" claims.
Jewish construction in sections of the city restored to the capital and annexed following the 1967 Six Day War is seen by the EU as “the biggest single threat to the two-state solution,” according to the report seen by AFP on Wednesday.
This refers to construction projects such as basic upgrades to neighborhoods like Gilo, home to some 40,000 Jewish and non-Jewish residents in southern Jerusalem, and built in 1980; the more central neighborhoods of Ramat Eshkol and French Hill, where residents first began living in 1970, and the outlying neighborhoods of Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Ze’ev, East Talpiot (Armon HaNatziv) and Ramot.
Relations between Israel and the European Union have been particularly tense in recent months, with Europe voicing increasing discontent over Israel’s plans to build more than 5,000 new homes for Israelis in and around the capital.
The report, authored by EU heads of mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah, flagged construction in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Har Homa, Gilo and Givat HaMatos as being “the most significant and problematic plans.”
All three were referred to as “settlements” rather than the neighborhoods of the city that they are.
“The construction of these three settlements is part of a political strategy aiming at making it impossible for Jerusalem to become the capital of two states,” the report warned. “If the current pace of settlement activity on Jerusalem’s southern flank persists, an effective buffer between east Jerusalem and Bethlehem may be in place by the end of 2013, thus making the realization of a viable two-state solution inordinately more difficult, if not impossible.”
Israel does not consider the division of Jerusalem to be an issue for consideration in talks with the Palestinian Authority. All of Jerusalem — Judaism’s holiest city, containing the Jewish People’s holiest sites – is considered Israel’s eternal, undivided capital.
The Palestinian Authority has demanded that Israel hand over nearly half of the city to create a capital for its hoped-for state, “Palestine.” The international community also dispute the status of the areas restored to the Israeli capital in the 1967 Six Day War and accuses Israel of violating international law in their annexation.
But many of the disputed neighborhoods in Jerusalem actually pre-date the state in one form or another, and were simply rebuilt on their original sites after Israel conquered the land from the Jordanians, who occupied the area from 1948 to 1967.
“If the implementation of the current Israeli policy regarding the city continues, particularly settlement activity, the prospect of Jerusalem as a future capital of two states – Israel and Palestine – becomes practically unworkable,” the executive summary states. “This threatens to make the two-state solution impossible.”
In 2012, tenders were issued for 2,366 new housing units – “more than twice” the total number issued over the preceding three years, the report noted.
As a concession to restart final status talks with the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu froze construction for a 10-month period in all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – at considerable political cost to his party and government – at the behest of U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010.
Nevertheless, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas reneged on his side of the agreement, grudgingly arriving towards the end of the freeze as a guest in the White House after having been dragged there by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Three meetings later, the “talks” were over, ended by a new demand by Abbas for an additional Israeli construction freeze in order to proceed further.
The report also noted an increase in clashes between Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem’s Old City, particularly at the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, and Islam’s third holiest. “With the peace process at an impasse and the region in transition, this increases exponentially the risk of a new crisis erupting over the site,” the report said.