On December 19th Catherine Ashton issued a statement in which she condemned the Israeli decision to build 2610 new homes in Givat Hamatos, a neighborhood in South Jerusalem.
Here is what Ashton said:
The approval of an additional 2610 housing units in the settlement of Givat Hamatos is extremely troubling, coming in addition to announcements made at the end of November and Monday’s approval of 1500 units in Ramat Shlomo. This plan for Givat Hamatos would cut the geographic continuity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I strongly oppose this unprecedented expansion of settlements around Jerusalem.
As was the case in Ashton’s previous remarks about building projects in Jerusalem the statement contained inaccuracies and could even be labeled anti-Jewish.
First of all, Ashton speaks of ‘settlements around Jerusalem’ when she means Jerusalem neighborhoods. It was former US secretary of state James Baker who started to call these neighborhoods settlements for political reasons. Givat Hamatos is an open area between four existing Jewish neighborhoods and the Arab neighborhood Beit Safafa to the west. All of these neighborhoods are an integral part of the city of Jerusalem
The projected neighborhood borders on Ramat Rachel and Har Homa to the east, Talpiyot in the north and Gilo in the south east. Beit Safafa was a divided neighborhood before the Six Day War in 1967. The so called green line (1948 ceasefire line) ran through the neighborhood and separated families.
The Givat Hamatos building plan also contains the construction of 688 units designated for Arabs living in Beit Safafa and would legalize illegally built houses in Beit Safafa at the same time.
Ashton’s condemnation was reserved for the planned building of the 2610 houses for Jews. Apparently she has no problem with Israeli building activities for the Arab population in neighborhoods over the green line like Beit Safafa.
Secondly, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs claims that building in Givat Hamatos would cut the geographic continuity between Bethlehem and Jerusalem
A simple look at the map shows however that the neighborhood is planned to the left side of road 60 that connects Jerusalem to Bethlehem. To the south is the Jewish neighborhood Gilo and to the north is the Jewish neighborhood of Talpiyot. All Arab neighborhoods which are envisioned by the Palestinian Authority to be part of a Palestinian state are to the right of road 60, and so is most of Bethlehem.
So how could building in Givat Hamatos cut the geographic continuity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem?
In her statement Ashton also said that “the EU opposes plans that jeopardize the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and Jerusalem as the future capital of two states”.
This shows again how out of touch she is with the reality in Israel and in Jerusalem in particular.
Would she want the residents of Beit Safafa to return to the situation as it was before 1967? Most of them don’t want to live in a Palestinian state at all. And what about the ten thousands of Israeli Jews who live in the neighborhoods next to Givat Hamatos? Do they have to be expelled from their homes in order to create a Palestinian state?
The fact is that the Palestinian Authority has agreed – during the talks with the Olmert government in 2008 – that all the Jewish neighborhoods west of road 60 would remain part of Israel. So how would building a new neighborhood west of this road “seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated solution” as Ashton claims?
There is however a more serious problem with Ashton’s obsession with Israeli building plans. In the same week that she condemned Israel, she failed to notice some very troubling developments in the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
On Monday last week PA premier Salam Fayad called for an overall boycott of Israel products. A move that illustrated the level of hostility of the PA leadership against Israel.
At the same time the PA allowed Hamas to organize anti-Israel demonstrations in Nablus and Hebron. An Israeli TV reporter witnessed first hand that the Palestinian street is not interested in two states or a negotiated solution. He also recorded how young Palestinian children are being prepared to become suicide bombers. See the disturbing video below.
This was followed on Sunday by reports in the English and British media that Hamas is planning to take over the West Bank.
These developments and other recent moves – such as abrogating the Oslo accords by the unilateral statehood bid at the UN – indicate that the PA is not interested in a negotiated solution.
If Ashton had noticed the rapidly changing reality in Israel she might have understood why the Israeli government had decided to take some very bold measures meant to strengthen Israel’s position in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
By issuing biased condemnations of Israel’s policies at this crucial point in time she only contributes to Palestinian intransigence and aggravates the already rapidly deteriorating situation in the West Bank.
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