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Europe opposes Netanyahu's new settlement plan

January 24, 2014 at 12:56 am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is exerting all the political strength he can muster to sabotage peace for Palestine and Israel.

On Monday, he authorised the construction of new illegal settlement units in the E1 area of the occupied West Bank which, when built, will split the region in half and separate a future Palestinian state from Jerusalem. Not content with this, Netanyahu is also withholding $100 million from the Palestinian Authority, tax revenues which are used primarily to pay civil servants’ salaries.

The moves are seen largely as a punitive measure against Palestine. Last Thursday, the United Nations upgraded Palestine’s status to that of a non-member observer state, against Israel’s wishes. An overwhelming majority of delegates voted in favour, leaving Netanyahu to ponder why he didn’t receive the majority he so desperately wanted.

But the UN’s upgrade of Palestine’s status has not upset Netanyahu alone. Some lawmakers in America, who were also opposed to the Palestinian Authority’s move at the UN, have warned that they might close the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s office in Washington and withhold US aid from Palestine.

The problem is that Israel and America wanted negotiations to filter through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not through the UN; the bid, they claim, undermines previous signed agreements. However, to date US “peace plans” have so far yielded little but stagmant, drawn out negotiations that Palestinians no longer want to endure.

America and Israel’s retaliation, though shocking, is not out of character. Their actions have increasingly inspired frustration and horror before an international audience, many of whom are shocked at their blatant violations of international law. Yet both continue to act with complete impunity.

A closer look at Europe, however, reveals a more united stand than has been presented in the past and, as a result, a more isolated Israel.

This week, in protest against the new settlements set to be built in the E1 area, Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark threatened to withdraw their ambassadors from Tel Aviv. Of these countries, only Britain abstained last week in the UN bid, the remaining voted for the Palestinian upgrade.

Europe, which is usually criticised for condemning illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank publicly, but not taking action against Israel, has this time delivered a solid penalty. In light of the upcoming elections in January, Netanyahu’s policies may be viewed in a favourable light domestically, but they are certainly not internationally.

In an ideal world, Europe will build on this defiance and not fail to take action the next time that Israel defies international laws.

Recently, an Israeli official told the New York Times: “It is well known that Europe and Israel have a different approach on settlements. There is nothing new here. If European countries would have behaved differently in their vote at the United Nations last week, we may have reacted differently.”

Israel appears to be in denial that it is becoming increasingly isolated, in keeping with Netanyahu’s claim last week that the UN vote “will change nothing on the ground”.

Follow Amelia on Twitter: @amyinthedesert

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.