The forlorn hope that Israel would see the sense of not retaliating over the Palestinian UN statehood vote has been all too swiftly disabused. Restraint and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu are not, it seems, compatible. Not least in a pre-election period. The decision on Friday to build 3,000 settlement homes in the “E1” corridor near Jerusalem has rightly outraged not only Palestinians but Israel’s best friend internationally, the US, and has driven a new wedge into its relationship with EU states.
Not only is the construction almost universally seen as a further illegal settlement of occupied land, but its specific location would bisect the West Bank, cutting off Palestinians from Jerusalem, erecting a massive obstacle to their legitimate ambition to create a contiguous state.
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations collapsed in 2010 over the issue of continued settlement building and of creation of what Palestinians call “facts on the ground”, increasingly irreversible realities of hostile enclaves in the heart of any independent Palestinian state. Now some 500,000 Israelis live among the West Bank’s and Jerusalem’s 2.5 million Palestinians. And any resumption of talks appears inconceivable without at least a de facto moratorium on illegal construction. Netanyahu’s reiteration of his support for a two-state solution can only be seen in this context as cynical.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore in May expressed support for NGO calls for an EU ban on the sale of goods from the illegal settlements.
The EU imports yearly some €230 million in goods from them.
At the very least Ireland should follow Britain and Denmark in demanding such “produce from Israel”, be labelled “West Bank-Israeli settlement produce” to let consumers choose to buy them or not.