Twelve European Union (EU) members condemned Israel for housing expansion in the West Bank, which they claim jeopardizes the two-state solution. Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, and Sweden issued a joint statement last October in which they expressed their opposition to Israeli government approval of constructing 3,000 housing units in area C of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), as well as 1,600 units for Palestinians in the same area. The EU claim is that the housing units for Jews infringe on the so-called “occupied Palestinian territory.” Yet, area C has been designated by the Oslo Accords to be administered by Israel, whereas areas A and B in the West Bank are administered by the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The term “occupied Palestinian territory” is false and misleading to begin with. Until Israel captured the West Bank, Jordan had occupied the territory and killed and expelled all the Jewish residents in the Old City of Jerusalem and the Etzion Bloc. When the Arab-Palestinians rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan, they forfeited any claim to the West Bank, which was allotted to them under UN Partition Plan. Jordan then occupied the most of the area designated for the Palestinian state. Moreover, it was not only Arab-Palestinian rejection of the Partition Plan, it was also the aggression the Arab-Palestinians committed against the nascent Jewish state that disqualified them as being an “occupied Palestinian territory.” It ended up being “Jordanian occupied territory.”
Another assertion made by the joint statement of the twelve EU state foreign ministers was, “We reiterate our strong opposition of settlement expansion across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which violates international law and undermines efforts for a two-state solution.” UN Security Council Resolution 242 called for “territory for peace (but specifically not all territories).” Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel and received in return the entire Sinai Peninsula, along with the Abu Rodes oil fields, and the magnificent Sharm el-Sheikh. In the West Bank, however, Israeli-Jews have as much right to settle as Palestinians-Arabs do.
Most EU states consider settlement construction a violation of international law. The Trump administration announced in 2018 that it did not consider this to be the case, and backed Israel’s claim. Jerusalem rejects the EU position that the territories are occupied, pointing out that the West Bank territories were captured from Jordan in a defensive war.
In a New York Times opinion piece (September 19, 1983), by the late Eugene Rostow, who served as dean of Yale University Law School, and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in President Lyndon Johnson’s administration, he wrote: “Israel has an unassailable legal right to establish settlements in the West Bank.” While Eugene Rostow took part in formulating Resolution 242, the current crop of EU foreign ministers were not involved in it, and are ignorant of its full meaning.
The notion of Israel’s construction of new housing units in area C of the West bank jeopardizing the two-state solution is simply bunk! Neither Mahmoud Abbas, President of the PA, nor the majority of the Palestinian people are ready or willing to negotiate a solution or establish the institutions that would advance Palestinian statehood.
David Pollock of the Washington Institute (February 25, 2020), headlined his story: “Palestinian Majority Rejects Two-State Solution, But Backs Tactical Compromises.” Citing a recent survey showing that, “Most Palestinian respondents now say they prefer ‘regaining all of historical Palestine’ over permanent peace with Israel.” At the same time, Palestinian majorities in both the West Bank and Gaza voice much more pragmatic views about “the impracticality of a one-state solution, the return of refugees, or armed struggle against Israel.” When asked “What is your personal opinion about what should be the top Palestinian National Priority during the coming five years?” The survey showed in 2017, 30% said, regaining all of historical Palestine from the river to the sea. In 2018, 47% chose the same answer, and in 2020, 66% repeated that priority…
Both Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas declined to reach an agreement with Israel on a two-state solution, fearing assassination by fellow Palestinians. Neither of these two was capable of nor wanted to run a democratic, orderly, and functioning state. Arafat enjoyed his role as a terrorist-revolutionary with the aim of destroying the Jewish state. Abbas gave the appearance of a more moderate leader, but he was and still is a mere figurehead, who enjoys hobnobbing with world leaders, and receives donations from western states, especially from EU states.
In July 2000 US president Bill Clinton arranged the second Camp David Summit. He invited Yasser Arafat, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman and President of the PA, and Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak, ostensibly to end once and for all the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Barak’s offers to Arafat were generous by any standard, as confirmed by President Clinton. Historian Benny Morris summed up Barak’s proposals in a British Guardian piece (May 23, 2002): The proposals included the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state on some 92% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip, with some territorial compensation for the Palestinians from pre-1967 Israeli territory; the dismantling of most of the settlements and the concentration of the bulk of the settlers inside the 8% of the West Bank to be annexed by Israel; the establishment of the Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem, in which some Arab neighborhoods would become sovereign Palestinian territory and others would enjoy “functional autonomy”; Palestinian sovereignty over half the Old City of Jerusalem (the Muslim and Christian quarters) and “custodianship,” though not sovereignty, over the Temple Mount; a return of refugees to the prospective Palestinian state though with no “right of return” to Israel proper; and the organization by the international community of a massive aid program to facilitate the refugees’ rehabilitation.
Arafat said no. Enraged, President Clinton banged on the table and said: “You are leading your people and the region to a catastrophe.” A formal Palestinian rejection of the proposals reached the Americans the next day. The summit sputtered on for a few days more but to all intents and purposes it was over.
Israel’s PM Ehud Olmert 2008 proposal to Abbas was even more generous. Olmert proposed that Israel retain 6.3% of the territory in order to keep control of major Jewish settlements. He offered to compensate the Palestinians with Israeli land equivalent to 5.8% of the West Bank, along with a link to the Gaza Strip — another territory meant to be part of Palestine. Olmert offered to connect the West Bank with Gaza through a 25-mile tunnel, and admit into Israel 5,000 Palestinians. He offered to withdraw from Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem and place the Old City — home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites — under international control.
The EU in its self-righteous hypocrisy ignores the crux of the problem, which is the Palestinians refusal to negotiate a deal and end the conflict. Instead, the EU twelve have provided massive aid to the Palestinians. When it comes to Israeli-Jews however, the EU has deliberately overlooked the human side, housing expansion that is meant to accommodate growing families.