Tuesday, February 06, 2007

British Embassy funded study of separation barrier

The British Embassy in Israel is helping to fund research on the enclaves created by the separation barrier around Palestinian villages in the West Bank. The study is being carried out by the non-governmental organization Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights. Officials from Bimkom say that the embassy contributed about 10,000 pounds sterling for the research and the report on the study, but did not interfere in its content.

A source in Israel's Foreign Ministry yesterday criticized the action. "It is interference by Britain in an internal Israeli matter. How would they react in London if our embassy was to fund research on a British organization that is trying to promote an agenda that is critical of [the government]? This is not acceptable in international relations."

The British Embassy issued the following response: "We recognize Israel's need and right to defend itself, but we believe the route of the separation fence should follow the Green Line. [Our] funding of the research was intended to examine the implications of the current route of the fence on the Palestinian population."

Bimkom's study, which was completed a few months ago, describes the difficulties that the fence causes for Palestinians in the enclaves on either side of the barrier. The authors of the report conclude that in addition to the security aims of the fence, it is also intended to aid the Jewish settlements and permit them to expand at the expense of the quality of life of the Palestinian residents.

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is currently on her first official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In Israel she will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and the chairman of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu. In Ramallah, Beckett will meet with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

In an announcement issued before her trip to "Israel and the Occupied Territories," Beckett said, "I want to see for myself the prospects for moving forward the political process."

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