The conflict is deepening between the European Union and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s occupation and colonization of the Palestinian territories.
On Monday, the E.U. Foreign Affairs Council approved a resolution that draws a distinction between Israel and the settlements built in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. It asks that trade agreements between Israel and the E.U. explicitly establish their association with the territories occupied since 1967. Israel is asked to “to end all settlement activity and to dismantle the outposts [houses] erected since March 2001” because the policy “seriously jeopardizes the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both states,” Israel and Palestine.
The E.U. foreign ministers emphasize that “settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.” The E.U. also reiterates its strong opposition to the wall Israel is building in the West Bank and around Jerusalem; the demolitions and confiscations, including projects financed by Europe; the forced displacement of the population; and restrictions on movement. The central points closely resemble the European Commission’s language in November when it announced new labelling requirements for Israel: Goods produced in settlements and exported to the E.U. cannot be marked, “Made in Israel.”
Israel has tried for days to block the new European resolution. On Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly lobbied the representatives of European countries closest to Israel — Cyprus, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Greece — not to vote for the resolution. His goal on Monday was to push for a postponement of the vote until the next meeting in a month, to allow Israel and its allies in the E.U. to soften the text of the resolution.
Netanyahu, meeting with the foreign press in Jerusalem on Thursday, stated that the “problem” is not individual European countries, with which his government must maintain good relations, but with the European Commission obsessed with Israel. The prime minister and the parties that make up his coalition are furious with the E.U., which insists on the creation of a Palestinian state and refuses to recognize the annexation to Israel of large portions of the West Bank that have already taken place.
The conflict with the E.U. is open, at least on the issue of settlements, but the Israeli prime minister cannot afford to aggravate it. Already Israel is struggling to keep friendly ties with old allies. Relations with Brazil remain strained after Netanyahu’s confirmation of Dani Dayan as ambassador in Brasilia, despite President Dilma Rousseff’s refusal to approve him. Not even the Americans are reliable pawns, with President Barack Obama announcing the end of the toughest sanctions against Netanyahu’s obsession, Iran.
Tension continues to rise in the Occupied Territories. Israeli government agencies are sprouting up in the West Bank over the last three years, and checkpoints are seemingly everywhere. But it is in the area of Hebron that army pressure has been most intense. On Sunday, a Palestinian stabbed and killed an Israeli, Daphne Meir, at her home in front of her children in the Jewish settlement of Othniel, according to soldiers, who’ve managed to lose track of their suspect. Hundreds of Israelis on Monday attended Meir’s funeral while news arrived of another Palestinian wounding an Israeli near the settlement of Tekoa.
On the other side, just last week, eight Palestinian civilians and a Hamas militant were killed. Israel accused some of the civilians of attempting attacks, but two of them were teenagers. Israeli units have carried out at least 72 raids — all in the West Bank, except one in Gaza — and arrested more than 60 people in a little over a week, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Meanwhile, Palestinian journalist Mohamed al-Qiq, of Almajd TV, remains hospitalized in intensive care after his arrest in November by the Israeli army, which placed him in “administrative detention” for six months without trial. Al-Qiq fasted in protest for 50 days and is in serious condition. His lawyer’s petition for release was rejected Saturday by a military court in Ofer.