Former European leaders urge EU to reject Trump plan if no Palestinian state

Letter signed by 37 high-ranking ex-officials comes after election promise by Netanyahu to extend Israeli law over West Bank settlements

European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address a media conference at the EU Council building in Brussels on Monday, December 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, right, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address a media conference at the EU Council building in Brussels on Monday, December 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Some three dozen senior former European politicians published a call on Sunday for the European Union to reaffirm its commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians and reject any Trump peace plan that does not address Palestinian demands.

The letter, published in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, comes with the White House expected to soon publish its long-awaited plan and following an election promise made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to effectively annex West Bank settlements.

The letter, signed by several former prime ministers and foreign ministers, said the EU must continue to insist on  “a Palestinian state alongside Israel on borders based on the pre-1967 lines with mutually agreed, minimal and equal land swaps; with Jerusalem as the capital for both states; with security arrangements that address legitimate concerns and respect the sovereignty of each side and with an agreed, fair solution to the question of Palestine refugees.”

The officials said that Europe “should reject any plan that does not meet this standard.”

“Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are sliding into a one-state reality of unequal rights. This cannot continue. For the Israelis, for the Palestinians or for us in Europe,” the letter warned, adding that, “Failing to seize this opportunity, at a point in time when this order is unprecedentedly challenged, would have far-reaching negative consequences.”

The city of Ma’ale Adumim, one of the largest Israeli settlements in the West Bank. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Among the 37 ex-officials who signed the letter were former French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt, former Italian prime minister Massimo d’Alema, former EU foreign minister Javier Solana and two former British foreign secretaries, Jack Straw and David Miliband.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said he did not believe Netanyahu’s talk of extending Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements would hurt the Trump administration’s long-gestating peace plan. His comments would appear to indicate that the US plan does not provide for Palestinian statehood, or even for Palestinian control of substantive contiguous territory in the West Bank.

Asked during a CNN interview by anchor Jake Tapper whether he thought Netanyahu “vowing to annex the West Bank” could hurt the US proposal, Pompeo answered “I don’t.”

“I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of ideas for 40 years. They did not deliver peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said. “Our idea is to put forward a vision that has ideas that are new, that are different, that are unique, that tries to reframe and reshape what’s been an intractable problem.”

He said the Trump administration wanted “a better life” for both Israelis and Palestinians.

In interviews days before the elections last week, Netanyahu said he intended to gradually apply Israeli law to all settlements, and that he hoped he could do so with the agreement of the United States.

Flatly ruling out Palestinian statehood, which he said would “endanger our existence,” Netanyahu promised to permanently maintain overall Israeli security control in the West Bank and to formalize Israeli rule over the 400,000-plus Israeli Jews in the settlements. This would apply not only to major settlement blocs, but also to isolated settlements, he indicated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) welcomes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his residence in Jerusalem on March 21, 2019. (Jim Young/Pool/AFP)

Netanyahu has also said he told US President Donald Trump he would not evacuate “a single person” from any of the settlements, amid reports that he believes Trump will back him on settlement sovereignty if the Palestinians reject the Trump peace plan.

Several mainstream US Jewish groups, including the Reform and Conservative movements, have implored Trump to restrain Netanyahu, saying in a letter released Friday that the sovereignty move “will lead to greater conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, severely undermine, if not entirely eradicate, the successful security coordination between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and galvanize efforts such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that are intended to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”

The White House has said it would release its peace proposal following the elections in Israel, which took place last week.

The Palestinian Authority has boycotted the Trump administration since its recognition in December, 2017, of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, and has vowed to oppose the proposal. The US administration has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid since the start of the Palestinian boycott. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

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