January 10, 2011 / 1:36 PM / in 9 years

Envoys urge EU backing for Palestinians in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli policies are undermining chances of making East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state, local European Union diplomats said in a report recommending more visible EU diplomacy in the city.

Proposals in the confidential paper obtained by Reuters on Monday include the dispatch of EU observers to the scene of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and a possible ban on the entry of “violent settlers to EU countries.

The past year, wrote the heads of EU missions in Jerusalem the West Bank city of Ramallah, had “again seen a further deterioration” of the overall situation in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured along with the West Bank in a 1967 war.

The report to EU headquarters in Brussels highlighted problems faced by Palestinians in East Jerusalem, including difficulty acquiring Israeli permission to build and “restrictive measures” governing their residency status.

These require Palestinians to regularly prove that Jerusalem is the center of their life. Palestinians who fail to do so risk losing their Israeli-issued permit to live in the city.

“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,” the paper said, citing Israeli settlement on occupied land in and around Jerusalem.

“This, in turn, seriously endangers the chances of a sustainable peace on the basis of two states, with Jerusalem as their future capital,” the diplomats said.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem to be the capital of the state they intend to create in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, a claim that has not won international recognition.

EU POLICY

Israel, the document said, was “systematically undermining the Palestinian presence” in the city and there should be “a more active and visible implementation of EU policy on East Jerusalem.”

On Sunday, Israel drew U.S. and EU criticism after bulldozers demolished a derelict East Jerusalem hotel to make room for 20 new homes for Jews in a privately-funded settlement project. Israel said Jews had a right to live anywhere in the city.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, EU diplomats said most of the recommendations in the report were not new but it was the first time they had been leaked.

An Israeli official said: “We are talking about an internal EU document that they have sent to Brussels, and we have no idea if Brussels is going to go with the idea or not.”

“European people who are stationed in Jerusalem have a specific attitude that is well-known,” the official added.

The European Union views East Jerusalem as occupied territory and says the city’s status should be decided in final status negotiations between the sides.

But the U.S.-led peace process which the Palestinians have been hoping would deliver them independence has been paralyzed by a dispute over Israeli settlement building. The submissions made by the EU envoys had “been drawn up in a spirit that aims to maintain the possibility of a two-state solution,” their report said.

They included ensuring “EU intervention when Palestinians are arrested or intimidated by Israeli authorities for peaceful cultural, social or political activities in East Jerusalem.”

Reporting by Tom Perry and Dan Williams; Editing by Samia Nakhoul

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