Israel, EU and the US disregard international law

After the announcement of the Israeli government to put out new tenders for construction in illegal settlements in East Jerusalem, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement expressing his deep concern, stating that “the government of Israel’s continued construction in settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory is contrary to international law and to its commitments under the Road Map and the Annapolis process.” The shameless Israeli expansion of its illegal settlements also caught the attention of the Arab League. Representatives of the UN’s Arab bloc met on 12 June at UN headquarters in New York for a final discussion on a proposal for the UN Security Council calling to halt the expansion of illegal West Bank settlements.

In the 12 months before the US-sponsored Annapolis conference last November, the Israeli government invited tenders for the construction of “only” 138 housing units in settlements. However, as demonstrated by the table below, in the six months since, Israel has put out 11 tenders for the construction of the staggering number of 1,731 settler housing units.

Israeli tenders for housing in Jerusalem and West Bank, December 2007 to June 2008
Settlement Governorate Housing units Date of tender Status
Har Homa Bethlehem 307 2 December 2007 contracted
Gilo Jerusalem Hotels 23 December 2007 contracted
East Talpiot Jerusalem 440 31 December 2007 contracted
Elqana Salfit 52 28 April 2008 closed 11 June
Ariel Salfit 48 28 April 2008 closed 11 June
Pisgat Ze’ev Jerusalem 196 2 June 2008 open 27 June
Pisgat Ze’ev Jerusalem 220 2 June 2008 open 27 June
Pisgat Ze’ev Jerusalem 252 2 June 2008 open 27 June
Pisgat Ze’ev Jerusalem 48 2 June 2008 open 28 July
Pisgat Ze’ev Jerusalem 47 2 June 2008 open 28 July
Har Homa Bethlehem 121 2 June 2008 open 28 July
Total 1,731

Israel further demonstrated its determination to transfer part of its population to the occupied territory in open violation of international law on 13 June when the Regional Committee for Construction and Planning approved the construction of 1,300 homes for settlers in Ramat Schlomo near Beit Hanina, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Ramat Schlomo currently has 2,000 housing units.

On 9 January 2007 israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told US President George W. Bush at a joint press conference in Jerusalem that Israel will not halt building plans in East Jerusalem. Minister Ze’ev Boim of Housing and Construction repeated Olmert’s views during a speech held at a Jerusalem municipality economic forum meeting. “We clearly explained our position to the US. It is permissible and even necessary to argue with friends about this. America’s position with regards to Jerusalem is not new — since the days of [Israel’s first prime minister David] Ben-Gurion they didn’t accept this. They accept it de facto and not de jure.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas raised the issue of settlement expansion in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on 5 June, and asked her to exert pressure on Israel. After meeting her on Sunday 15 June, Abbas remarked that the Israeli settlements were the biggest obstacle to peace. Rice called the Israeli settlement plans “simply not helpful.” Earlier that day, Rice said she would raise the issue during talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

In light of the increased settlement construction, Abbas’s appointed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has asked the European Union not to upgrade its ties with Israel unless it ceased construction of settlements and the wall. This request is perfectly in line with the EU-supported Road Map, and the Geneva convention of 1949. However, the EU ignored the Palestinian objections. Instead, the EU and the US continue to pile a heavy burden on their shoulders by willfully ignoring Israel’s speedy settlement expansion which are a violation of international law, and only serve to further weaken and discredit their “moderate allies” in the Palestinian leadership.

Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate.

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