EU condemns Israeli settlements, seizure of PA funds

(JTA) — The European Union called on Israel to cancel planned construction in West Bank settlements and “avoid any step undermining the financial situation of the Palestinian Authority.”

The European Union made the appeal in a document published Tuesday titled “Council conclusions on the Middle East Peace Process,” which came out of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels the previous day.

Last week, Israel said it would withhold approximately $100 million in tax revenues that it had collected for the Palestinian Authority.

“Such action by Israel would undermine existing cooperation mechanisms” and “negatively affect the prospects of negotiations,” the document read.

The money freeze came after the United Nations General Assembly voted on Nov. 29 to upgrade the Palestinian’s U.N. status to non-member state observer, against Israel’s wishes and those of the United States. In the EU, only the Czech Republic voted against the upgrade. The EU document called on the PA to “use constructively” the new status. 

“Israel regrets the one-sided wording of the E.U. Foreign Affairs Council conclusions,” a statement on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s website read. “The root cause of the absence of a peace accord is the Palestinian refusal to engage in direct negotiations."

The statement went on to say, "This one-sided position taken by the E.U. rewards rejectionism and does not contribute to promoting a permanent peace agreement.”

The EU text also said the EU was ‘deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes” recently announced plans by the Israeli government to construct 3,000 housing units in the West Bank. Some of the homes are to be built in the E1 corridor between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim.

“The E1 plan, if implemented, would seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict by jeopardizing the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states,” the document said.

The document also called on both parties to start direct talks with no preconditions on a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders. 

The document came a day after the EU was named the recipient of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize for "what the European Union means for peace in Europe,” said Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

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