(Photo credit: Middle East Monitor)
According to a 15 January report released by Israeli outlet Haaretz, several European countries have recently issued warnings to the new Israeli government, calling on them to avoid any ‘provocative’ unilateral actions that threaten peace and the prospect of Palestinian statehood.
The report states that last week, the foreign ministers from a number of countries – predominantly but not limited to EU states – made contact with Israel’s new Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, warning him and his government against “taking any unilateral … provocative steps in Jerusalem and the West Bank that might reduce the chances of achieving a two-state solution.”
The ministers reportedly expressed concern over the possibility that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government will “change the status-quo” regarding the Al-Aqsa Mosque. They also condemned the recently announced plans for illegal settlement expansion.
Haaretz added that the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Cyprus, and Guatemala, as well as a few other countries, called Cohen to congratulate him on assuming his new position and to express their concerns.
“We are following up with our concerns regarding the government’s behavior, and we are especially afraid that Ben Gvir’s actions will lead to an eruption in the region,” the newspaper quoted one of the diplomats as saying, in reference to Israel’s new National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
“We are following the government’s actions closely,” another unnamed official was quoted to have told the newspaper.
According to Haaretz, the new Israeli government feels “reassured,” and is under the impression that Europe and the US will not exert “real pressure” on it, as the world is currently distracted with the situation in Ukraine. Recent comments made by European or US officials are for appearances only, and merely represent a “lip tax,” the Hebrew news report suggests.
For several decades, Israel has been carrying out excavations under the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as part of a very vague, historically motivated search for ‘Solomon’s Temple.’
Since the formation of the new Israeli government, and particularly following the start of the new year, “these excavations have intensified,” Fakhri Abu Diyab, Jerusalem-based Palestinian investigator, was quoted as saying in a 12 January report.
“We have never seen such intensity and speed around the Al-Aqsa Mosque before,” he added, suggesting that Israel may soon be planning to bring about “dangerous … and fundamental changes in the area.”
This comes in the aftermath of Ben Gvir’s recent storming of the mosque’s compound, which was strongly condemned by several world leaders and branded as an ‘unprecedented provocation’ as well as an outrage by millions across the Arab and Muslim world.
As Palestinians continue to fall victim to Israeli violence at an alarming rate, and elected officials call for the annexation of the remainder of Palestinian land, the significant acceleration of Israeli excavation near the holy site is expected to strongly reinforce already existing fears that the Jerusalem ‘status-quo’ faces a grave threat.