EU SUPPORTS PALESTINIAN UNITY! – while Netanyahu is to annex 19 illegal settlements


PALESTINE”S ambassador to the European Union, Abdel Rahim al-Farra said on Thursday that EU officials had informed him that financial support to the Palestinian government would be increased following the signing of the Palestinian reconciliation agreement.

Farra said that the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council will hold a meeting to discuss Palestinian reconciliation and enabling the legitimate government to carry out its duties in the Gaza Strip. He confirmed that he had been informed by the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn that it was time to implement development projects in the Gaza Strip. Hahn stressed the necessity of launching the $600 million water desalination plant in Gaza during a meeting of donor countries in Brussels.

Farra welcomed the EU Missions’ statement, which hailed the signing of the Palestinian reconciliation agreement that ended any talk of Palestinian secession, saying: ‘There was a significant reaction to developments in Palestinian reconciliation.’

The European Union Representative and Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah welcomed on Wednesday recent developments in intra-Palestinian reconciliation and called for an end to the Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip for the past ten years and full opening of the crossing points.

The Missions said in a statement: ‘The Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah welcome that Prime Minister (Rami) Hamdallah travelled to Gaza and held a meeting there with all ministers. This is an important and positive signal that the Palestinian Authority is ready to assume its responsibilities in Gaza.’

Recalling the Quartet Principles, they added: ‘We encourage all parties involved in the reconciliation process to allow the Palestinian Authority to fully resume its government functions in Gaza. We also recall the need for unimpeded humanitarian access for all, including EU bodies and EU Member States, and a fundamental change to the political, security and economic situation in Gaza, including an end of the closure and a full opening of crossing points, while addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns.’

• The reconciliation process started between Gaza and the West Bank following Hamas’ dismantling of its administrative committee last month remained the focus of the three Palestinian Arabic dailies on Thursday.

They highlighted different issues with al-Ayyam’s main front page headline quoting Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah telling the Palestinian political factions that ‘the government will commit to fully implement what you agree on and that we are waiting for the Cairo meeting’ between Fatah and Hamas.

The main front page headline in al-Quds talked about an administrative committee to discuss integration of Gaza employees and the Cairo meeting, to discuss the crossings, employees, security and Hamas weapons.

Al-Hayat al-Jadida quoted President Mahmoud Abbas as saying that he is going to do all that he can to close the page on division. Al-Quds said the Egyptian security delegation that came to Gaza earlier this week to oversee the smooth transfer of power in Gaza from Hamas, which has ruled the Strip since 2007, has returned home.

Hamas official, Salah Bardawil, said that his movement is going to participate in any future unity government. The papers also reported on Arab and international news. They reported on the statement US President Donald Trump had said about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being the major obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

• Netanyahu has pledged his support for the Greater Jerusalem bill, which is tantamount to the annexation of 19 illegal settlements in the Jerusalem area, including Maaleh Adumim, where between 125,000 and 150,000 Israeli settlers live. Maale Adumim is the third largest settlement encompassing a large swath of land in the occupied West Bank’s Jerusalem district. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli suburb of Jerusalem, despite it being located on occupied Palestinian territory in contravention of international law.

Netanyahu said: ‘Maaleh Adumim will always be part of Israel and in addition I support the Greater Jerusalem bill. I am also weighing up placing Maaleh Adumim within the boundaries of Greater Jerusalem within the context of the Greater Jerusalem bill.’

The legislation was written by Likud minister Yisrael Katz who will bring the bill to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in the next Knesset session. It would place 19 settlements, within Israel’s municipal boundaries for Jerusalem. The Israeli state annexed occupied East Jerusalem in 1980 in a move never recognised by the international community.

The bill would allow the settlers to retain their autonomy but afford them voting rights in the city’s mayoral race. It would create ‘independent municipalities’ for some 100,000 Palestinian citizens or residents of Israel who live within Israel’s Jerusalem municipality borders, but are located on the other side of Israel’s illegal separation wall.

These neighbourhoods, which have been referred to as a ‘no man’s land,’ have not received proper municipal services since the wall’s construction. While most residents hold Jerusalem residency status and continue to pay taxes to the Israeli government, they are left severely neglected by Israeli authorities, as their neighbourhoods are now located on the ‘West Bank side’ of the separation barrier.

Residents must pass through congested Israeli-controlled checkpoints to reach Jerusalem, while these neighbourhoods face increasing problems from an absence of sewage infrastructure and other basic services traditionally provided by the Jerusalem municipality, including waste collection, healthcare, and education.

Netanyahu said: ‘We will develop Maaleh Adumim. We will build thousands of housing units here. We will add the necessary industry and the expansion necessary to enable the accelerated development of it. This place will be part of the State of Israel.’ He also talked about a plan for 4,000 new homes in settlements in the occupied West Bank after the Jewish holidays.

Netanyahu also took the opportunity to address the reactivation of the Palestinian National Consensus Government and ongoing reconciliation talks with rival factions Fatah and Hamas.

He continued: ‘We expect everyone who talks about a peace process to recognise the State of Israel and, of course, to recognise a Jewish state and we are not prepared to accept bogus reconciliations in which the Palestinian side apparently reconciles at the expense of our existence.

‘Whoever wants to make such a reconciliation, our understanding is very clear: recognise the State of Israel, disband the Hamas military arm, sever the connection with Iran, which calls for our destruction, and so on and so forth. Even these very clear things must be clearly stated.’

Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Secretary General Saeb Erekat said in a statement Wednesday that now that Palestinian political reconciliation was underway, it was ‘time for Israel to abide by international law and to recognise the right of the State of Palestine to exist,’ noting that the Palestine National Council has recognised the State of Israel.

‘Some in Israel and the United States have called on Hamas to recognise Israel. Instead, Israel and the United States should recognise the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is the way to achieve the ultimate deal with the State of Israel to live side by side the State of Palestine in peace and security,’ Erekat said.

Observers have attributed a increase in visits by Netanyahu to illegal settlements since Donald Trump was sworn in as US president in January. Since Trump took office the Netanyahu government has pushed forward with a steady stream of announcements on settlement building.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman – who has been vocal in his support for Israeli settlements and his unflinching support for the Israeli government has said that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is an ‘alleged occupation,’ and that settlements are ‘only occupying two per cent of the West Bank’ and that he considers them part of Israel.