When Israeli authorities last week approved plans for more than 2,000 settlement housing units in the occupied West Bank, the European Union was quick to condemn the move.
“All settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” read the statement issued by the European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic service.
It went on: “The EU expects the Israeli authorities to fully meet their obligations as an occupying power under international humanitarian law and to cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, of designating land for exclusive Israeli use, and of denying Palestinian development.” Read more
On June 3, a few days before the 49th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, diplomats gathered in Paris for a conference framed as a preliminary step towards reviving official Israeli-Palestinian peace talks – though without the presence of either’s respective officials.
The gathering did not amount to much; the final statement was characterized by generalities and included phrases copied and pasted from recent statements issued by the Middle East Quartet, or the Diplomatic Quartet. Read more
Since the beginning of the year, Israeli authorities have carried out a wave of demolitions of Palestinian structures in the occupied West Bank, with numbers that are unprecedented since the United Nations began keeping records in 2009.
As of April 14, Israeli forces had demolished 591 structures in Palestinian communities in Area C, which comprises 60 percent of the West Bank – surpassing the 453 structures demolished in all of 2015. More than 800 people have been displaced; the equivalent figure for all of last year was 580. Read more
October 2015 was one of the bloodiest months in Palestine/Israel since the Second Intifada, with 69 Palestinian fatalities (including some 40 attackers or alleged attackers) and 7,392 injuries, along with eight Israeli fatalities and 115 injuries.
The number of Palestinians injured mainly during anti-occupation protests across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, was more than for the whole of 2014. 2,887 Palestinians were shot by Israeli forces with live ammunition or rubber-coated metal bullets.
The international guardians of the comatose peace process, however, remained largely on the side-lines, with little ability to influence events on the ground that have ebbed and flowed irrespective of external appeals for ‘calm.’ Read more
The day after the Iran deal was concluded in Vienna, Labour MP Ian Austin accused UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond of backing an “absolutely terrible deal” that had left “people…utterly dismayed in Tel Aviv”. Hammond’s response was blunt, and worth quoting in full:
The question we have to ask is what kind of a deal would have been welcomed in Tel Aviv. The answer, of course, is that Israel does not want any deal with Iran. It wants a permanent state of stand-off, which I do not believe is in the interests of the region or in our interest.
It was a brief exchange – but a telling one. For here was a Conservative foreign secretary telling Parliament in no uncertain terms that not only does Israel want “permanent” conflict with Tehran, but that, on this occasion at least, Israel’s perceived strategic interests diverge from those of the UK. Read more
The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond didn’t mince his words. Israel, he said, was guilty of “what looks and feels like a deliberate attempt to sabotage the two-state-solution.”
The diplomat went on, claiming that the “window” for a two-state agreement is “closing”, and that this was down to Israeli “settlement patterns” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
And all this even before Netanyahu’s re-election as prime minister had been confirmed. Read more
Last week, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen warned on Israeli television that the country would face “increasing isolation” if the peace process collapsed, echoing remarks he made in January about a “price to pay” in terms of boycott and divestment initiatives by European companies. Yet last week also saw the official launch of Israel’s participation in the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme, making it “eligible to compete for €77 billion worth of industrial research grants over seven years”. This juxtaposition is a useful picture of current EU-Israel relations, with close cooperation continuing even as strains have emerged in the context of a troubled peace process and civil society pressure. Read more