LibLink: David Ward’s visit to the West Bank

David Ward MP has been out in the West Bank. He has been blogging a diary for the three days of his visit. Day One is here:

Yesterday night I met with the Consul General based in East Jerusalem to discuss the incredibly complex issue of achieving peace for Israelis and Palestinians. I am reluctant to post my thoughts at this stage as we have so much more to see over the next three days but there is so much that needs to be done to ensure that there is lasting peace in the region. Hopefully the next few days will give me a greater insight into the issues and the solutions.

The programme continues with a meeting with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and a ‘tour’ of East Jerusalem followed by a visit to the Jordan Valley with Al-Haq (a Palestinian human rights organisation). We then have a meeting with Dr. Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestine Authority in Ramallah.

When I visited Gaza in 2010 I was immensely impressed by the colossal efforts of the United Nations and I am pleased to say that on Saturday we will have the chance to meet with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as part of a field visit to the Biddu enclave followed by a meeting with Oxfam in an olive cooperative near Ramallah.

The final meeting on Saturday will be with a senior member of the PLO. On the last full day before we leave we will be visiting Hebron to meet with Breaking the Silence (Israeli army veterans) and a lawyer at Defence for Children International. All in all a busy but fascinating few days.

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  • The Huffington Post has reports on the EU Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels yesterday:

    “BRUSSELS — The European Union warned Israel of unspecified consequences Monday if it goes through with plans to build thousands of new settler homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The bloc’s 27 foreign ministers said they were “deeply dismayed” by Israeli plans to expand settlements in East Jerusalem and particularly the E1 project, which would separate the West Bank from east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital, and drive a big wedge between the northern and southern flanks of the West Bank.

    “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 capital of two states,” said the ministers said in a joint statement. “It could also entail forced transfer of civilian populations.”

    The EU views any Israeli settlements on territory occupied during the 1967 Mideast war as a breach of international law. “The EU will closely monitor the situation and its broader implications and act accordingly,” the ministers said.
    The new settlement plans have drawn widespread international condemnation, with the U.S. also urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call off the plans.

    The Israeli government reacted by calling the EU focus mistaken. “Facts and history both prove that Jewish settlement never constituted an obstacle to peace,” said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. “Therefore, the EU’s focus on this issue is mistaken.”

    Netanyahu also decried what he saw as a double-standard. “We cannot accept that when Jews build homes in their ancient capital, Jerusalem, the international community has no problem finding its voice, but when Palestinian leaders openly call for the destruction of Israel, the one and only Jewish state, the world is silent,” Netanyahu said Monday.

    But Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said Europe’s political view of the Mideast had changed profoundly since Israel announced plans to build 3,000 new settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Bildt, speaking as ministers gathered for Monday’s meeting, said the Israeli plans had caused “extreme concern” in Europe. “What the Israelis did on E1 has shifted opinions in Europe,” Bildt said. “I don’t think the Israelis are aware of this.”

    Some advocacy groups want the EU to prohibit the sale of goods made by Israeli settlers from being labeled as made in Israel. The labeling issue may come up but was not officially on the agenda.”

    The January elections in Israel will be an important test of Israeli opinion on this issue, especially if Former PM Ehud Olmert: imakes a return to the political stage. Olmert has said Netanyahu is isolating Israel from the rest of the world, rebukes the PM’s decision to expand construction in settlements, and says Israel is going to pay ‘a difficult price’ for it.

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