Skip to main content

EU must end complicity in Israel's shameless flouting of international law

With the spotlight on Jerusalem, it is an opportunity for unified, effective, and decisive EU action

The US administration's brazen recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was met with global shock and condemnation.

The US recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel emboldens further demographic engineering, land grabs, and violation of Palestinian rights

It is now imperative that the EU translate its words into action, making clear that it will not support US President Donald Trump's announcement and will take concrete steps to end complicity in Israel's shameless flouting of international law. As the stakes of Israeli violations continue to rise, the world needs EU leadership now more than ever. 

EU leadership

For seven decades, the international community has shared a consensus that Israeli claims over Jerusalem were illegal. The US announcement, however, disrupted that international consensus.

As Palestinians, we fear the announcement will embolden Israel to intensify its unlawful annexation of our lands and wanton human rights violations against us. During the longest military occupation in modern history, Israel has sought to assert its control over Jerusalem through land-grabs, disenfranchisement of Palestinian rights, and demographic change.

Forcible population transfers, denial of Palestinian building permits, residency status revocations, home demolitions and property confiscations have become daily occurrences for Palestinians in Jerusalem.

In 2017 alone, 126 Palestinian structures were demolished, which resulted in the displacement 239 people, 115 of whom are children, while 17 Jerusalemites had their residency rights revoked - including two children.

Only months ago, the Knesset was set to vote on the Greater Jerusalem Bill. The bill would annex some of the West Bank's largest settlements into Jerusalem's borders, adding 150,000 Israeli settlers to Israel's voting population and exacerbating the already illegal transfer of the settler population to occupied territory.

Conversely, it would demote the status of certain Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem to "sub-municipalities".

Israel's long-term plan

The objective of the Greater Jerusalem Bill is to serve Israel's long-term plan of altering the demographic character of Jerusalem to achieve a 70 percent majority of Israeli Jews to a 30 percent minority of Palestinians.

Its implementation would be an egregious violation of international law, yet it enjoys the public support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the far-right Likud Party.

The US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel gives a green light to policies like the Greater Jerusalem Bill, serving only to embolden further demographic engineering, land grabs, and violation of Palestinian rights.

The EU should avoid deepening political and economic cooperation with Israel until it demonstrates its commitment to ending its occupation

The Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre (JLAC) aims to challenge Israel's longstanding pattern of human rights violations against Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Palestinian civil society organisations like JLAC have long sought to challenge Israel's ongoing litany of abuses against the Palestinian people and flagrant disregard of international law. But we cannot do it alone.

Concrete action

In response to President Trump's announcement, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini has made clear that the EU will not follow the US in recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While this is an important step, the EU and its member states should now take concrete action to uphold its own obligations under international law and hold Israel to account.

Trump's Jerusalem announcement provides an opportunity for EU member states. It is in the interest of the EU itself to act on it.

As a start, the EU should send a clear message against the Greater Jerusalem Bill and the daily human rights violations in Jerusalem, voice rejection of the US decision, and provide a unified support for UN resolutions reaffirming the international consensus on Jerusalem as a shared capital.

This will ensure that the US is isolated in its decision.

This week, the UN Security Council voted 14-1 in favour of a resolution that would have affirmed that the US announcement has no legal effect and demanded that the US reverse its decision. 

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini looks on during a press conference at the European Council in Brussels (AFP)

The US, standing alone, wielded its veto to block an otherwise unanimous decision - but its isolation was apparent. Now, with a similar resolution set to move to a vote in an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly, EU states have another opportunity to act with unity and consensus to reiterate their adherence to international law.

Furthermore, the EU has an obligation to ensure that its own policies do not constitute cooperation with Israel's illegal occupation.

The EU should set an example for the rest of the international community by ensuring that any Israeli-EU cooperation does not contribute to illegal settlements or human rights violations.

Israel's greater Jerusalem bill: Settlers in, Palestinians out
Issam Aruri
Read More »

Any meetings of the EU-Israel Association Council should be postponed until Israel commits to upholding its legal obligations. Furthermore, the EU should avoid deepening political and economic cooperation with Israel until it demonstrates its commitment to ending its occupation.

These steps would send a clear message that the EU will not be complicit in Israel's ongoing crimes. The US announcement is the latest development in a decades-long Israeli policy of creeping annexation.

But with the spotlight on Jerusalem, it is also an opportunity for unified, effective and decisive EU action. For peace to be possible, the EU must step up to take the lead.

- Rami Saleh is the Jerusalem branch director for JLAC. Rami Saleh is a human rights activist working closely with civil society organisations throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank. He is a member of the board of directors of the Palestinian Counseling Center (PCC) and holds a Master's Degree in Human Rights.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Commission in Brussels on 27 March 2017 ( AFP)

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.