EU officials propose help for arrested Palestinians

The European Union is so troubled by the increased settlement activity of Israel it has proposed that EU officials should be present at the site of imminent house demolitions or evictions and intervene if non-violent Palestinians face arrest in East Jerusalem, according to a new confidential report.

The proposal, sent from the EU's top officials in Israel to their superiors in Brussels, is one of several for strengthening the EU's support for Palestinians in East Jerusalem. EU officials warn that Jewish settlement activity there is making a two-state solution to the conflict increasingly difficult.

The document, prepared for internal circulation by the 25 EU Consuls General in the city, says: "Israel has left Palestinian neighbourhoods ever more isolated" and "by legal and practical means, is actively pursuing its [illegal] annexation by systematically undermining the Palestinian presence in the city."

The Consuls-General – who are the ambassador-level representatives to the Palestinian Authority – suggest that in addition to being present when houses are demolished, they should attend court hearings dealing with demolitions or evictions and "ensure EU intervention when Palestinians are arrested or intimidated by Israeli authorities for peaceful cultural, social or political activities in East Jerusalem".

Using markedly stronger language than EU ministers use in public when criticising Israel, the document states: "If current trends are not stopped as a matter of urgency, the prospect of East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state becomes increasingly unlikely and unworkable. This, in turn, seriously endangers the chances of a sustainable peace on the basis of two states, with Jerusalem as their future capital."

The document says that the cumulative effect of Israeli policy towards East Jerusalem Palestinians – including settlement building, demolitions and evictions, but also "restrictive zoning and planning, ongoing demolitions and evictions, an inequitable education policy, difficult access to health care, the inadequate provision of resources and investment" continue to "negatively affect" Palestinian life.

It adds: "The wider political consequences of the above measures are of great concern. Over the past few years the changes to the city have run counter to the peace process. Attempts to exclusively emphasise the Jewish identity of the city threaten its religious diversity and radicalise the conflict, with potential regional and global repercussions."

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