Fri Nov 25th, 2005 at 04:00:35 PM EST
Gaza Link to Egypt - Rafah Crossing Point Opened Today
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - Palestinians formally opened a border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt that will allow Gazans to travel abroad freely for the first time since Israel occupied the coastal territory in 1967.
"I think every Palestinian now has his passport ready in his pocket. Let them come to cross at this terminal whenever they want," said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, helps Egyptian Intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, center left, to cut a ribbon during a ceremony marking the opening of the the Rafah border crossing terminal between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Center right is European Union representative, Marc Otte. AP Photo/Suhaib Salem, Pool
Cross-border movement will be supervised by European Union monitors as part of a U.S.-brokered deal after Israel's Gaza pullout in September. Israel, citing security concerns, will keep on eye on traffic through a video link set up as part of the agreement. The Rafah deployment marks the EU's first monitoring role in the Palestinian territories.
Secret EU report launches scathing attack on Israel
The EU foreign ministers' meeting was widely reported in Israel to have decided against publication of the report in its present form because of the risk to its relationship with the Jewish state especially when for the first time Israel has given its blessing to the EU having a key security role in the region by monitoring the Rafah crossing point from Gaza into Egypt. The EU will be represented at senior level at a ceremonial opening of the crossing by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today.
The 11-page report, leaked to The Independent, says the E1 project for a major expansion of Ma'ale Adumim, the largest Israeli West Bank settlement, to join it to Jerusalem "threatens to complete the encircling of the city by Jewish settlements, dividing the West Bank into two separate geographical areas." It says that, while the present 30,000 residents of the settlement at present occupy only 15 per cent of the planned area, the total plan envisages an area of 53 square miles - "larger than Tel Aviv" - extending through the West Bank between Jerusalem and Jericho.
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"Greater" Jerusalem Absorbs West Bank Area
Special Report: A Jerusalem Primer | Vol. SR No. 1 | February 1994
The term "Greater Jerusalem" has entered the lexicon of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The United States acknowledged this when, for the first time, the State Department, in an April 1993 report to Congress, noted that "the [Rabin] Government also has affirmed its intention to continue settlement construction in a 100-square mile surrounding area termed 'Greater Jerusalem.'"
The increasing use of this expression by Israelis, who originated it more than a decade ago, is a testament to the nation's continuing effort to expand Israel's permanent borders well into the West Bank.
Secret EU report (continued) ...
While the plans will divide the West Bank from itself and from East Jerusalem, the report says "the economic prospects of the West Bank [which has a GDP per year per head of $1,000] are highly dependent on access to East Jerusalem [GDP of $3,500]. It adds: "From an economic perspective, the viability of a Palestinian state depends to a great extent on the preservation of organic links between East Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem".
European governments should consider direct intervention in an attempt to curb the systematic measures being undertaken by Israel to increase its control and population in the historically - and legally - Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem, a highly sensitive EU report concludes.
The confidential report, prepared by top diplomats representing the 25 EU governments in the city, warns that the chances of a two-state solution are being eroded by Israel's "deliberate policy" - in breach of international of law - of "completing the annexation of East Jerusalem".
European Foreign Ministers this week vetoed planned publication of the report - which also warns that rapid expansion of Jewish settlements in and around East Jerusalem, along with use of the separation barrier to isolate East Jerusalem from the West Bank, "risk radicalising the hitherto relatively quiescent Palestinian population of East Jerusalem".
The report provides the most detailed and remorselessly critical account yet produced by a Western international body of Israel's policy in East Jerusalem, which has been occupied since its seizure in the 1967 Six Day War. It points out that Jerusalem "is already one of the trickiest issues" on the road to a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. It adds that, as a result of the measures, "prospects for a two state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine are receding".
Among the recommendations in the report, drafted in October during the British EU presidency which ends next month, the EU is urged to consider a series of steps including direct support for projects that help Palestinians to conduct legal battles against house demolitions, which it points out tripled in the city during 2004, and the persistent refusal to grant building permits to all but a small minority of Palestinians.
IDF soldiers facing rioting Palestinians
in East Jerusalem earlier this month. Reuters
The report also suggests holding meetings with the Palestinian leadership in East Jerusalem, presumably to demonstrate that - contrary to the Israeli government's goal of Jerusalem as its "undivided capital" - it sees East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state.
EU: Israel's E. Jerusalem policy endangers final-status talks
TEL AVIV Haaretz Nov. 25 -- The European Union's diplomatic representatives have sharply criticized Israel's policies in East Jerusalem, saying it is using settlements and the West Bank separation fence to create a "de facto annexation of Palestinian land". The unpublished report warns that the Israeli measures "are reducing the possibility of reaching a final-status agreement on Jerusalem that any Palestinian could accept," The New York Times reported.
According to the Times, the report recommends that European officials take a more aggressive stance toward Israeli policies in East Jerusalem, such as holding political meetings with Palestinian ministers in East Jerusalem instead of the West Bank and asking Israel to "halt discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, especially concerning working permits, building permits, house demolitions, taxation and expenditure."
"This de facto annexation of Palestinian land will be irreversible without very large-scale forced evacuations of settlers and the re-routing of the barrier," the document said.
The spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, Mark Regev, told The Guardian: "Israel believes that Jerusalem should remain the united capital of Israel. At the same time, Israel has committed itself that Jerusalem is one of those final-status issues."
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