[action speaks louder than words] European powers tell Israel to stop settlement expansion

A building site of new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Kochav Yaakov (Ahmad Gharabli - AFP)

Al-Jazeera  /  May 7, 2021

European countries warn continued Israeli settlement expansion will damage prospects for a viable Palestinian state.

France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain urged Israel to halt settlement-building in the occupied West Bank.

The joint statement on Thursday came as tensions mounted in occupied East Jerusalem ahead of a hearing that could see Palestinian families forcibly displaced from Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood where Jewish settlers backed by an Israeli court have taken over some homes.

“We urge the government of Israel to reverse its decision to advance the construction of 540 settlement units in the Har Homa E area of the occupied West Bank, and to cease its policy of settlement expansion across the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” the European nations said.

“If implemented, the decision to advance settlements in Har Homa, between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, will cause further damage to the prospects for a viable Palestinian State.”

Sheikh Jarrah scuffles

Jerusalem, which contains sites sacred to Judaism, Islam and Christianity, is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip in a 1967 war. The Palestinian Authority views East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, and most of the international community regards the settlements that Israel has built there and in the rest of the occupied West Bank as illegal.

Israel’s annexation of occupied East Jerusalem is also not recognised by the majority of world leaders. Palestinians have long pointed to a series of state-sanctioned policies designed to expand Israeli-Jewish presence in the city at the expense of Palestinian residents, ranging from house demolitions, daily police harassment, and settlement expansion.

In Sheikh Jarrah, Israeli settlers and border police again attacked a Palestinian vigil in the neighbourhood.

On Thursday night, the area was sealed off as far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir set up an office outside one of the Palestinian homes taken over by Israeli settlers.

“I came here because children and women are being attacked every evening,” he said.

After he spoke, Israeli settlers taunted and provoked the Palestinians, who were breaking their fast for Ramadan outside. Scuffles ensued and Israeli police arrested at least 15 Palestinians.

A Reuters reporter saw a car ablaze near a home taken over by settlers in a back street near the eviction site. Police confirmed it belonged to an Israeli. Videos then showed an Israeli settler firing his weapon from behind a wall.

Among the crowd of Palestinian youths who gathered nearby, Mohammed Abu Sneineh, 17, said he did not know who set fire to the vehicle, but he wanted the settlers to leave.

“Why did they come, this land is ours. Why do they want to displace us from it?” he said.