BRUSSELS, October 31, 2013 (WAFA) – European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Thursday that upgrade of relations between the EU and Israel is dependent on progress in the peace talks and Israel’s respect for international law.
Ashton’s statements came in response to a written question submitted on behalf of the International Campaign to Protect Palestinian Residency in Jerusalem (Jerusalemites Campaign) and the European Coordination Committee for Palestine (ECCP) regarding EU policy from Israel’s practices toward Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem, particularly revocation of their residency rights.
“On the issue of residency revocation in Jerusalem, the EU continues to stress with the Israeli government its concerns about Israeli policy on East Jerusalem (including residency and permit regimes, restrictions on building and lack of services),” said Ashton.
Replying to inquiry related to specific actions the EU is taking to force Israel to cease residency revocation in Jerusalem, Ashton maintained: “The EU has introduced a clear conditionality on the EU-Israel relationship, freezing any ‘upgrade’ of relations, and conditioning such an upgrade both on progress in the Middle East peace process as well as respect for international humanitarian law.”
The Jerusalemites Campaign and the ECCP, however, said that they were not satisfied with the EU response to Israel’s illegal occupation and persistent human rights violations.
“The EU continues to act as Israel’s largest trading partner, conducting trade that amounted to over €29 billion in 2012,” said the two groups. “These funds serve to bolster the economy of an occupying force that infringes international law, international human rights law, and its own agreement with the EU.”
They said that Israel’s partnership with the EU has developed over the years in spite of a rise in Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.
“Current efforts made by the EU to pressure Israel’s compliance with international law have been ineffective,” they said. For example, since the EU entered into the Association Agreement with Israel in 2000, more than 8,000 Jerusalem IDs have been revoked, stripping Palestinians of their right to live and work in their place of birth.
“The discriminatory practice of residency revocation serves Israel’s broader intent to Judaize the city of Jerusalem through a process of ethnic cleansing. It also exists in clear violation of the EU’s position toward East Jerusalem as illegally occupied territory,” the two groups added.
The Jerusalemites Campaign and the ECCP stressed that “conditionality ought not to apply merely to enhancement of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, but toward the continuation of the agreement itself.”
They reiterated their call to the EU to publicly support and promote the rights of Palestinians living in Jerusalem and strengthen its political dialogue with Israel on the rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem to ensure tangible process on the ground.
“The EU should ensure that concerns are raised at the highest political level as well as in bilateral relations with Israel,” they said, also calling on the EU “to act according to its stated position and take concrete measures to pressure the Israeli government to abide by its international obligations.”
They called for immediate suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement and Israeli participation in EU programs “as long as Israel does not comply with International Law, International Human Rights Law and the Association Agreement itself (article 2 and art. 83).”
They also said the EU “must assume its legal obligations by holding Israel accountable for its continued violations within appropriate EU bodies and other relevant forums.”