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Israel’s West Bank Construction Plans raise tensions with Europe

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Relations with the UN also cold over the lack of visas for the staff of the human rights commissioner

The Israeli government’s decision last week to approve the construction of 4,900 housing units in West Bank settlements has increased tensions with the European Union. Palestinians say the land should be part of a future Palestinian state.

On Friday, the EU issued a public statement by the French, German, British, Italian and Spanish foreign ministers against the construction program.

The statement said they were “deeply concerned” and called for “an immediate halt to the construction of settlements, as well as the eviction and demolition of Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem and the West Bank”.

The EU said the Israeli government’s approval was “a counterproductive move in light of the normalization agreements reached between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain”.

An official Israeli government source declined to comment on the EU statement.

Oded Revivi, the mayor of Efrat, a Jewish community south of Bethlehem, saw the European declaration as another attempt to become part of the peace process.

“It is hard for me to remember once that Europeans were happy with the plans to build the Israeli government in Judea and Samaria,” Revivi told Media Line.

Hardly hard for me to remember once that Europeans were happy with the plans to build the Israeli government in Judea and Samaria

He was using biblical terms for the West Bank commonly used by Israelis living over the Green Line, the temporary border drawn into ceasefire agreements after Israel’s 1948-49 War of Independence.

“It is true that a number of different European countries have had different initiatives to bring peace to the region, especially to the Palestinian people. However, none of the initiatives has ever come up with anything productive and sustainable, ”Revivi declared.

“An interesting point in the European response is the fact that they are referring to the US President [Donald] “Trump’s initiative and acceptance that it is something with considerable potential to succeed,” he said.

“As far as I know, the decision of the Israeli governments was made with the recognition of the US administrations and therefore is not conclusively against President Trumps’ vision for peace,” he added.

Other Israeli settlers were more open to criticism of the EU position.

“They are acting as a colonial power right under the nose of Israel. “They are trying to change the facts on the ground,” Yisrael Medad, a West Bank resident of Shilo, told The Media Line.

He was referring to the construction, with the help of the EU, of housing, schools, agricultural and industrial projects for Palestinians in the West Bank.

“If the EU is building here, why can’t Israel? he said.

If the EU is building here, why can’t Israel?

The EU is geographically far from here, and Israel has political sovereignty. We live, inhabit, and plant fields in Judea and Samaria. “We have the right to live here,” he said.

Tensions between Israel and the United Nations also appear to have risen to a certain level. According to media reports, Israel is not renewing visas for UN staff working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

When contacted, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said: “We have nothing else to add to the statement. [made] in February, which we believe speaks for itself. “

We have nothing to add further to the statement made in February, which we believe speaks for itself

In response to the UN Human Rights Council’s publication that month of a list of 112 companies doing business in the West Bank Jewish communities, then-Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a press release that “the commissioner’s decision to “Continuing to pursue an anti-Israel stance in the UN Human Rights Council is a stain on the UN commissioners’ office and on human rights itself.”

Katz called it a blacklist, saying it represented the final surrender to pressure from countries and organizations interested in harming Israel “and added that the State of Israel would not tolerate this discriminatory, anti-Israel policy and would take action. to prevent the implementation of these types of decisions. ”

Omar Shakir, director of Human Rights Watch in Israel and Palestine, says he was also affected by visa policy for Israel. He was revoked nearly 11 months ago because his job was set to violate a 2017 Israeli law barring entry for those defending Israel’s boycott.

“We work closely with United Nations human rights workers,” he told Media Line, adding that the failure to renew visas for UN workers “stems from Israel’s ongoing attack on human rights advocacy.” He also called it part of a model to stick to the documentation of Israel’s systematic repression of Palestine. “

However, local employees and a combination of technologies allow him to work remotely.

“Human Rights Watch has emergency researchers and these colleagues are replacing the local team,” he explained. “If the Israeli government’s goal is to stifle human rights, it has failed.

If the Israeli government intends to stifle human rights, it has failed

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