BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Britain called on Israel on Monday not to raze the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank after Israel’s top court last week cleared the way for its demolition.
The Palestinians say the tearing down of Khan al-Ahmar is part of an Israeli plan to create an arc of Jewish settlements that would effectively cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank – areas Israel captured in a 1967 war and which Palestinians seek for a independent state.
Israel’s top court on Wednesday rejected petitions against the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and said a temporary injunction that had put a hold on the move would lapse in a week.
In a statement, the five European Union powers said, “We therefore join (EU) High Representative/Vice-President (Federica) Mogherini in reiterating our call to the Israeli government not to go ahead with its plan to demolish the village – including its school – and displace its residents.”
They added, “The consequences a demolition and displacement would have on the residents of this community, including their children, as well as on the prospects of the two-state solution would be very serious.”
Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Khan al-Ahmar is situated outside Jerusalem between two Israeli settlements.
Khan al-Ahmar was built without Israeli permits, a factor cited prominently in the court’s decision. Palestinians say such documents are impossible to obtain.
U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since 2014 and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories have steadily expanded.
Most countries consider settlements built by Israel on land it took in the 1967 Middle East war as illegal and an obstacle to peace. They say they reduce and fragment the territory Palestinians seek for a viable state.
Israel disputes this and cites biblical, historical and political connections to the land, as well as security needs.
The EU representative office said in July that settlement expansion had continued at a faster rate in the first six months of this year than between July and December 2017, with more than 6,000 housing units in the West Bank including East Jerusalem in different stages of the planning and implementation process.
U.S. President Donald Trump has angered Palestinians and stirred global concern by recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital despite its internationally disputed status, and cutting off U.S. aid to the United Nations agency that cares for Palestinian refugees.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin and Michael Nienaber; Editing by Mark Heinrich)