Europe reaffirms its condemnation of illegal Israeli settlements

Federica Mogherini

Callum Paton

The National  /  November 19, 2019

EU says Israeli activity continues to undermine prospects of regional peace despite US abandonment of international consensus

The EU has hit out at illegal Israeli settlement activity and criticised a US announcement that it backs the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The bloc has reaffirmed the illegality of Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territory, saying it eroded prospects for lasting peace.

“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

“All settlement activity is illegal under international law. The EU calls on Israel to end all settlement activity, in line with its obligations as an occupying power.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday that America would change its policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The move was the latest in serious shifts by the US towards Israel and Palestine, including the relocation of its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which has undermined the possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict.

Mr Pompeo said that the administration of US President Donald Trump would disregard a 1978 opinion, the basis for the US’s backing for international law on the Israeli settlements, and allow the issue to be addressed by Israeli courts.

Carl Bildt, the co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted that the change in US policy was perilous.

“In its latest policy pronouncement Secretary Pompeo basically says that international law is irrelevant and might is what makes right in today’s world,” Mr Bildt wrote.

“That’s a profoundly dangerous step with vast consequences for the future.”

Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow at the council, told The National that as far as talk of Israel and Palestine was concerned, Europe had a good record of standing up to the US.

“The EU and its member states have been surprisingly good at holding the line, at least in terms of the rhetoric and discourse, to stand up for international law and the two-state solution,” Mr Lovatt said.

But he said the EU’s inability to move beyond words was problematic.

“The US has been actively seeking to undermine the basis for a two-state solution since Trump entered office,” Mr Lovatt said.

“The sense that the EU should be much more political, much more proactive, is often lacking.”

Meanwhile, the UN’s human rights office on Tuesday also reaffirmed its long-standing position that Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are in breach of international law.

“A change in the policy position of one state does not modify existing international law nor its interpretation by the International Court of Justice and the Security Council,” spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.

Callum Paton writes for The National