Israel scorns European critique of housing plans

The UN Security Council meets in September. (UN)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—Israel on Wednesday forcefully rejected criticism by European members of the Security Council of its plans to build some 1,000 new housing units beyond the Green Line, telling the Europeans to stop “interfering with Israel’s domestic affairs.”

The strongly worded rebuke was two-pronged; taking the Europeans to task for meddling and for hypocritically basing their objections to difficulties the housing plans might cause the peace process, after their own recent conduct had caused another stumbling block to negotiations.

Israel was outraged by the Europeans’ backing of the Palestinian interpretation of the Quartet’s statement from September 23 that set out a framework for resuming peace negotiations.

“We call the parties to present as soon as possible to the Quartet comprehensive proposals on territory and security,” the four EU countries on the Security Council said. This clearly contradicted a statement by the Quartet last week in Jerusalem, reiterating the framework established by the US, EU, UN, and Russia that these comprehensive proposals should be presented by the sides to each other in direct talks.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the EU members of the Security Council would be well advised to exert their efforts on resuming direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, instead of “interfering” in Israel’s internal affairs.

“If, instead of contributing to stability in the Middle East through these steps, they invest their efforts in inappropriate bickering with the one country where the independent law and justice system can handle lawbreakers of all kinds, they are bound to lose their credibility and make themselves irrelevant,” the statement said.

The Foreign Ministry called on European UNSC members to “adhere to the wording of the Quartet plan and refrain from giving it interpretations that contradict both the letter and the spirit of the original text.”

“This misreading only adds obstacles on the path towards renewing peace negotiations. Interfering with Israel’s domestic affairs, including on issues which are to be solved within the framework of direct talks, does not enhance the status they wish to be granted,” the statement added.

“Moreover, Israel suggests that the European UNSC members focus on the international agenda rather than turn upside down the fitting priorities of the international community,” the statement added.

“In Security Council discussions they should have concentrated on peacemaking in bloodshed hotspots such as Syria, on enrooting democracy and moderation in Arab countries aspiring to freedom, and on diffusing the global danger embodied in the Iranian nuclear race. The European UNSC members have chosen to do what is easy and unnecessary, rather than muster their courage and do that which is difficult and necessary.”

A joint statement on Tuesday by ambassadors from Britain, France, Germany, and Portugal called the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as illegal under international law.

“We call on the Israeli government to reverse these steps,” the statement said. “The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel’s long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements.”

The Palestinian Authority disingenuously declared earlier this month that the Quartet framework did not require direct talks. Israel has insisted that the framework means only that comprehensive proposals must come out of talks between the sides and not via Quartet mediation. The US backs this position.