By Barak Ravid
The EU joins Washington in its call to spare Sussia while criticizing construction in the settlements and Israel’s role in the stalled peace process.
The 28 foreign ministers of the European Union’s foreign ministers have called on Israel to “to halt plans for forced transfer of population and demolition of Palestinian housing and infrastructure” in the village in the West Bank’s South Hebron Hills.
The statement was issues in a communiqué on the peace process, after their monthly meeting in Brussels.
Senior Foreign Ministry officials said Jerusalem viewed the use of terms like “transfer” very gravely, but they would forgo an official response and instead raise the issue with EU officials.
The foreign ministers’ message comes only a few days after a similar warning by the U.S. State Department. “We strongly urge the Israeli authorities to refrain from carrying out any demolitions in the village,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington on Thursday.
“Demolition of this Palestinian village or of parts of it, and evictions of Palestinians from their homes would be harmful and provocative. Such actions have an impact beyond those individuals and families who are evicted.”
The EU communiqué also comes after several days of debate that included arguments between the member states and associates of EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, especially peace process envoy Fernando Gentilini.
The first draft of the communiqué included softly worded criticism of Israel. But EU members including France, Sweden, Malta and Ireland demanded a harsher assessment of the stalled peace process, construction in the settlements and Israeli moves in Area C of the West Bank. The result was tougher criticism of Israeli policy.
The harshest criticism was against Israeli activity in Area C, under full Israeli control, and the plan to demolish Sussia and evacuate its residents. The document calls on Israel “to enable accelerated Palestinian construction, as well as social and economic development in Area C. Such actions will serve to strengthen the prosperity and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.”
The Civil Administration’s plan to demolish dozens of homes in the Palestinian village, all of which were built without permits, has also been criticized in Israel. Some critics say the land is being seized to expand the adjacent Jewish settlement, also called Sussia.
The foreign ministers said preserving the option of a two-state solution was a high priority, while settlement construction “seriously threatens the two-state solution.”
They added that all EU member states were committed to drawing up regulations for labeling settlement-produced goods that are sold in stores on the Continent.
“The EU and its Member States reaffirm their commitment to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing EU legislation applicable to settlement products,” the ministers said in the statement.
“The EU expresses its commitment to ensure that all agreements between the State of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”
Another section of the communiqué deals with Mogherini’s desire to relaunch Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The foreign ministers said one option was to establish an international support group to help both sides return to the table, a suggestion put forward by France.
“The establishment of an International support group is a possible way to contribute to this end,” the ministers said. “The Council asks the High Representative [Mogherini] to explore options for implementation of this initiative with regional and international actors and to report back in early September.”