PLO applauds European response to Israel’s settlement plans

RAMALLAH (Ma’an News) On Monday senior PLO officials applauded Europe’s response the new settlement building plans lanched by Israel after Palestine was recognized by the United Nations last Thursday.

Only three weeks ago, Netanyahu won strong European and US support for a Gaza offensive that according to Israel was aimed at curbing persistent cross-border rocket fire. After the voting in the United Nations however, Israel announced new settlement building plans. As a response to these plans, Israeli ambassadors were summoned in Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark in order to appeal to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change course by showing deep disapproval of the new plans. Also Germany, usually considered as Israel’s closest European ally, urged Israel to refrain from another expansion of settlements. Additionally Russia announced that it viewed Israel’s reactions with serious concern.

The strong position taken by Europe was applauded by PLO executive committee member Ahmad Majdalani. According to him, the opposition reflected the world’s frustration with Israeli policies. Majdalani told Ma’an News that practical, tangible steps were needed to pressure Israel to obey international laws and the will of the international community.

Senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi explained Europe’s new position as a result of Israel having gone too far and not as a result of Palestine’s new status in the United Nations. Ashrawi added that the US and the EU had asked Israel not to build in the “E1” zone east of Jerusalem, “but Israel today tells the world that… (it is) above the law”.

Because Israel’s main ally, the US has opposed construction in E1, it has never before been put into motion. Building in the area could bisect the West Bank, cut off Palestinians from Jerusalem and further dim hopes for a contiguous Palestinian state.

Ashrawi told Ma’an News that Israel demonstrated their arrogance not only against the Palestinian people but this time also against the whole international community. She added: “They must know that at this stage there are punishments and consequences to their actions”. Summoning ambassadors was acknowledged as an important political step; however it was noted that settlement building was far from new, rather it was a decades-old issue. According to Ashrawi, Israel had simply used the admission of Palestine as a non-member state as an excuse to launch the settlement plans which had been in the pipeline for years. Israel’s 3,000 new settlements were “a clear expression of the colonizing ideology of Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz explained that Israel could not have remained indifferent to the voting in the UN. “I want to tell you that those same Europeans and Americans who are now telling us ‘naughty, naughty’ over our response, understand full-well that we have to respond, and they themselves warned the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

Netanyahu announced in his cabinet on Sunday to his government “will carry on building in Jerusalem and in all the places on the map of Israel’s strategic interests”.  While his housing minister has said the government would soon invite bids from contractors to build 1,000 homes for Israelis in East Jerusalem and more than 1,000 in West Bank settlement blocs, the E1 plan is however still in its planning stages.

Source: Ma’an News Agency