The European Union on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to the Middle East peace process, but said that it depended on a “fundamental change” to Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The EU council, which met in Brussels on Monday, called for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, settlement construction, home demolitions and the “forced transfer” of Palestinian communities, including those of Susiya and Abu Nuwwar.
“The status-quo is not an option,” the EU said, adding: “There is no alternative to a negotiated two state solution.”
The council met buoyed by the success of last week’s Iran nuclear deal.
“We have seen very concretely that diplomacy in the long run can deliver,” said Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs. “Perseverance can pay.”
The EU council said it was committed to “securing a just and lasting peace,” but noted its concern at Israeli policy.
It pointed in particular to the beleaguered Gaza Strip, which has suffered three wars in the past six years and a crippling eight-year Israeli blockade.
“An immediate priority must be to address the grave situation in the Gaza Strip,” the council said. “One year after the conflict, the humanitarian and socio-economic situation in the Gaza Strip remains dire.”
It demanded “a fundamental change of the political, security and economic situation in the Gaza Strip, including the end of the closure and a full opening of the crossing points,” in reference to the blockade.
The EU council also acknowledged Israel’s “legitimate security concerns,” saying that rocket fire from Gaza must also end.
The body noted concern at the lack of donor funding to the coastal enclave, particularly to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which in recent months has had to roll back several of its emergency relief programs.
In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the EU condemned Israel’s settlement policy, as well as “demolitions and confiscation — including of EU funded projects — evictions, forced transfers including of Bedouins, illegal outposts, settler violence and restrictions of movement and access.”
It pointed in particular to the demolition and forced transfer of the Palestinian communities of Khirbet Susiya and Abu Nuwwar.
Last week, the Israeli authorities ordered the demolition of around half of the homes in Khirbet Susiya to be carried out after Ramadan, Israeli watchdogs said.
The Bedouin community of Abu Nuwwar east of Jerusalem, meanwhile, has been under threat for years.
The Israeli authorities said in May that the demolition of the community’s homes was imminent, as they cleared way for the expansion of the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim.
The EU reiterated its call for Palestinians to be allowed to build and develop in land classified as Area C under the Oslo Accords, saying that it would “strengthen the prosperity and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.”
The council said that facts on the ground were rapidly eroding the viability of a two-state solution, but warned that “the regional context, including the ongoing radicalization and spread of terrorism, makes it even more urgent to end the conflict.”
The EU called for greater national unity among Palestinians, saying that the PA should take “greater responsibility” in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian talks of forming a new government have been in disarray since the dissolution of the current unity government was mooted last month.
The EU last week made a payment of $15 million to the PA to support poor Palestinian families living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in the second installment of $46 million the EU pledged the PA this year.
In general, however, the international community has failed to fulfill donor pledges made last year in the aftermath of Gaza’s devastating 50-day war.
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)