EU said to mull sanctions over E. Jerusalem building
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EU said to mull sanctions over E. Jerusalem building

Leaked document says tensions in capital at dangerous boiling point, warns of high levels of ‘polarization and violence’

Police stand guard as Palestinian Muslim worshipers make their way to the al-Aqsa Mosque in the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem for Friday prayers, November 14, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police stand guard as Palestinian Muslim worshipers make their way to the al-Aqsa Mosque in the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem for Friday prayers, November 14, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A leaked report filed by the European Union suggests that sanctions on Israel should be considered for its continued construction in “sensitive areas” of Jerusalem, and warns that polarization and violence in the city are at an all-time high since Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City from Jordan in the Six Day War in 1967.

The report detailed a “vicious cycle of violence … increasingly threatening the viability of the two-state solution”, which was heightened by “systematic” Jewish construction in “sensitive areas” of Jerusalem, according to an article published Friday by the Guardian newspaper.

East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel, which claims the entire city as its capital, but Israeli construction across the pre-67 lines is opposed by most of the international community; the Palestinians seek the area as the capital of a future state.

“The tensions, mistrust and violence which have accompanied developments in the city in the course of the year have reached extremely high levels,” the report said.

“These developments are increasingly threatening the viability of the two-state solution and, in turn, risk precipitating further levels of polarization and violence,” it continued.

The report added that 2014 was “distinguished by a number of specific, disturbing and often violent developments,” asserting that stone throwing, terror attacks and heavy-handed measures by Israeli security forces were likely to lead to “further escalation and extreme polarization” if not properly addressed.

Security forces, the report noted, “have been engaged in recurrent violent confrontations with Palestinian youth that led to more than 1,300 arrests (with 40% of the detainees being minors)”.

Israeli riot police officers detain a Palestinian youth during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on October 26, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)
Israeli riot police officers detain a Palestinian youth during clashes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on October 26, 2014 (photo credit: AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

The report also noted Israel’s perceived interference in the status of the Temple Mount, blaming both sides for a rise of violence. Religious jurisdiction at the Temple Mount — the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest site in Islam — is in the hands of the Islamic Waqf; Israel maintains overall security control at the contested site.

The EU report contends that “settlers and national religious activists [frequent the Temple Mount] under the protection of Israeli forces” on an “almost daily basis.”

The 28-member political body has also mulled tougher sanctions against Israel in response to continued construction in East Jerusalem.

A number of recommendations were made by the report, including:

– Taking coordinated steps to ensure consumers in the EU can make informed decisions on the purchase of “settlement products” by labeling them according to existing EU rules
– The adoption of new restrictions against known violent settlers and those calling for acts of violence as regards immigration regulations in EU member states
– Raising awareness among EU citizens and businesses about the economic and financial risks of conducting business with entities beyond the 1967 lines
– Advancing voluntary guidelines for EU tour operators to prevent support for settlement business in East Jerusalem

The report, which is currently being evaluated in Brussels, expresses the EU’s frustration over the lack of progress over peace talks. The EU has threatened sanctions against Israel for several years in an effort to prod forward the peace process with the Palestinians and discourage settlement expansion. The political body has also indicated it may reassess bilateral ties should no movement on peace talks be made.

In October, the Times of Israel reported that some EU members were considering implementing a mechanism that would immediately penalize Israel for every step deemed unhelpful to the peace process.

Prior to Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu said a Palestinian state would not be established if he was elected prime minister, a reversal of his position outlined in 2009 that supported a negotiated agreement to create a demilitarized Palestinian state. Netanyahu retracted his pre-election statement while speaking with American news channels following his victory.

The original statement was heavily criticized around the world, and Washington was said to be “reevaluating its approach” with Jerusalem.

The historically close relationship between the two countries is considered by many to be cooling dramatically. According to multiple media reports, this strain may lead to the United States to allow the passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The disclosure of the EU report came after chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat sent a letter to Federica Mogherini, the EU’s top representative on foreign policy, calling on the European Union to harden its stance with Israel.

“We believe it is time to focus all our efforts in saving the two-state solution from its total disappearance through holding Israel accountable of its violations of international law,” Erekat wrote.

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