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Israeli ex-officials round up European lawmakers to pressure Israel on West Bank

Letter signed by nearly 450 EU politicians urges bloc to take advantage of opportunities presented by new Biden administration to prevent ‘de facto annexation’ of territory

Construction work for new housing in the West Bank settlement of Modi'in Illit, January 11, 2021. (Flash90)
Construction work for new housing in the West Bank settlement of Modi'in Illit, January 11, 2021. (Flash90)

A letter initiated by four Israeli public figures and signed by hundreds of European Parliament members has been sent to the bloc’s foreign ministers, urging them to use their diplomatic weight, coupled with the outlook of the new Biden administration in the US, to curb Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank.

The Haaretz daily, which was provided with a copy of the letter, reported on Sunday that the four Israelis are not mentioned in the request but were behind the initiative.

The letter was pioneered by former Meretz party leader Zehava Galon, former Knesset Speaker and Labor MK Avraham Burg, former president of the New Israel Fund lobby group and Meretz MK Naomi Chazan, and Michael Ben-Yair, a former attorney general, Haaretz reported.

Signed by 442 EU parliament members from 22 countries, it was delivered to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and the foreign ministers of the 28-nation bloc.

Zehava Galon at a rally in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv on May 27, 2017 (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

According to the report, most of those who signed are from European parties that align politically with the Israeli center-left, and over a third are members of the UK’s Labour party.

While lamenting that the previous Trump administration had “left the conflict farther away from peace than ever,” the letter said that “the beginning of the Biden presidency provides a much-needed opportunity to address the Israeli-Palestinians conflict with renewed effort.”

“In parallel, the announcement of Palestinian elections to be held in the coming months offers an opportunity for Palestinian political renewal and reunification,” the letter said.

It warned that while recent normalization with some Arab states effectively blocked Israel’s plan last year to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank, “developments on the ground clearly point to a reality of rapidly progressing de facto annexation, especially through accelerated settlement expansion and demolitions of Palestinian structures.”

The letter charged that those policies were “eliminating” the possibility of a two-state solution, and were entrenching a perpetual conflict in the region.

Former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg at the Israel Conference on Democracy, held in Tel Aviv on February 17, 2015. (Amir Levy/FLASh90)

The letter then urged the bloc and its member countries to enact policies to change the situation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2020 declared his intention to move forward with the partial annexation of the West Bank, under the auspices of the Trump administration peace plan, from July 1, but that date came and went without any movement on the matter.

Last September Israel signed US-brokered normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates and also Bahrain that were reportedly conditioned on dropping the annexation move.

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