The representative of the European Union to the Palestinian Authority, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, raised the alarm during a visit to the West Bank, saying that time is running out for a two-state solution with Israel.
Burgsdorff led an EU delegation of representatives from more than 20 European countries on Sunday on a visit to the former Qalandia airport north of Jerusalem.
He was referring to two settlement construction announcements made by Israel. One is a plan to build about 3,500 housing units near the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, in the area known as E1. The other controversial construction announcement is the planned 9,000 homes for the Atarot area of East Jerusalem on the site of what was once Qalandiya Airport, which opened in 1924 and closed in 2000.
The Palestinians have said they want to see an airport for their future status there. The projects are illegal and contrary to international law, Palestinian officials say, adding that they will end any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Burgsdorff told reporters that the Israeli plans challenge international law and destabilize the status quo. “The Israeli settlements clearly violate international law and constitute a major obstacle to a final and just[ing] and a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians, “he explained, adding that the EU cannot” close its eyes “to the projects.
Ahmed Rafiq Awad, president of the Jerusalem Center for Future Studies at Al-Quds University, said the statement made by Burgsdorff is welcomed by the Palestinians, “but it must be translated into action.”
“They are statements made for public consumption, this is not enough; we need this to translate into action. Politically pressuring Israel and supporting the Palestinians, ”he said.
He said the EU “must translate this into sanctions against Israel, besiege settlements, delegitimize the Israeli occupation and recognize the Palestinian state.”
Israeli journalist-turned-political analyst Eli Nissan said there is nothing new in the statements of the European Union delegation.
“The European Union does not recognize the unity of the city, which is under the control of Israel and, according to Israeli law, the city is united forever,” he said.
Nissan criticized Burgsdorff’s statements, saying they were “incorrect” and that the envoy “does not know the new reality in the region and expresses a political position in opposition to Israel.”
“If the EU continues to speak lip service, then it is hypocritical. The EU cannot hold the stick from the middle: support Israel and appease the Palestinians with words, ”said Rafiq Awad.
Last month, the United States called the construction plans “unacceptable.” The harsh criticism of President Joe Biden’s administration and its condemnation are some of the strongest in years against Israel.
“There is a difference between the American and European position,” Nissan said, adding that “the United States and Israel are on the same page and Washington understands that Israel is obliged to continue settlements in the West Bank because there is natural growth.”
Rafiq Awad says that Israeli policy is “killing” the two-state solution. Nissan agrees. “This is correct. In this government, I do not listen to anyone calling for a two-state solution. Do not talk about the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state. The Palestinians want Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders, this does not it will happen, ”he said.
Biden made a campaign promise to reopen the diplomatic mission for the Palestinians in Jerusalem, which was closed under his predecessor. But so far, no date has been given for a reopening.
“The administration of the United States, like the European Union, does it lip service without acting. Washington must play a strong, effective and swift role, or things will get worse. If the position of the United States does not change by the end of the year, it is very possible that things will explode, ”said Rafiq Awad.