Israel illegally annexing east Jerusalem: report

EU report accuses Israel of undermining hopes for peace

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The European Union accused Israel on Thursday of actively pursuing the annexation of Arab east Jerusalem and undermining hopes for peace with Palestinians, a confidential report obtained by AFP revealed.

The annual report drafted by the EU heads of missions in Jerusalem accused Israel of implementing in 2009 an intricate policy which includes expanding Jewish settlements and demolishing Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem.

"Developments in east Jerusalem in 2009 were marked by the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and a considerable number of Palestinian house demolitions and eviction orders," said the report, published first by Israel's liberal Haaretz daily.

Israel occupied and annexed east Jerusalem in 1967 and considers it its "eternal indivisible capital" in a move never recognized by the international community.

"Israel is, by practical means, actively pursuing its illegal annexation of east Jerusalem by weakening the Palestinian community in the city, impeding Palestinian urban development and ultimately separating east Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank."

Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor branded the report as "dishonest."

The future of east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to make the capital of their promised state, is one of the most sensitive issues in Middle East peace talks, which have been suspended for almost a year.

The EU report said that the Jewish state's policies in east Jerusalem "are undermining prospects for a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem and incrementally render a sustainable two-state solution unfeasible."

The 14-page report dated Nov. 23 said that Israel's policy in east Jerusalem is "an integral part of a broader Israeli strategy."

It goes on to accuse the Israeli government and Jerusalem municipality of supporting and assisting private right-wing Jewish organizations of strengthening the Jewish hold in and around the Old City.

"The continued settlement expansion plans around the Old City effectively encircles and contains the historic basin and separates the Muslim holy places from the rest of east Jerusalem," the report said.

It said the municipality places severe restrictions on issuing building permits for Palestinian houses in east Jerusalem, forcing them to construct without permits.

As a result, over 600 Palestinian-owned structures have been demolished since the year 2000, it said.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a freeze on new permits for house construction in Jewish settlements in the rest of the West Bank, but the decision does not affect east Jerusalem, where some 200,000 Jews live in 12 settlements.

Developments in east Jerusalem in 2009 were marked by the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and a considerable number of Palestinian house demolitions and eviction orders

EU report