The European Union’s recent decision to classify the city of Modi’in as a settlement, and not part of Israel proper, came as a slight shock to local residents.
Zohar Dovev, whose family moved to the city in 1997, explained how surprised she was to find out last week that the city she was raised in was suddenly given a completely new status. “It came out of nowhere,” Dovev told Tazpit News Agency. “For 15 years of life, I’m just a regular Israeli resident living in a developing city until one day an international organization decides that I’m a settler.”
Modiin, established in 1993 under the government of the late Yitzhak Rabin, who laid the cornerstone for the city himself, is located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The city, which merges two nearby communities, Maccabim and Re’ut, is home to approximately 80,000 Israelis, about 40 percent of whom are children. According to the Modi’in municipality, the city has hundreds of educational institutions, shopping centers, green parks, and entertainment venues.
Part of Modi’in is located in a buffer zone known as ‘no-man’s land’ that existed between 1948-1967 when Jordan controlled Judea and Samaria.
Although Dovev may be surprised by the European Union’s decision, the mayor of Modi’in, Haim Bibas, is not.
According to a written statement from Bibas to Tazpit News Agency, the mayor stated that the hostile attitude among Arab states to the existence of Israel has long played a factor in international politics and policies.
“Since Israel’s establishment in 1948 there have been players in the Middle East who will not accept that the nation of Israel has returned to its historical homeland. Arab states and various organizations have tried to harm the legitimacy and sovereignty of Israel in every available forum. The EU’s decision not to include the city of Modi’in Maccabim-Re’ut as part of the free trade agreement with Israeli cities is the most recent example,” Bibas elucidated.
The Modi’in mayor, however, did not lay the blame on the European Union. “The EU and other international organizations and states work hard to bridge the relationship between Israel and the Arab world. It is easy to complain against the European Union, but pressure from every direction and lack of familiarity with the on-ground situation, can lead to mistaken decisions are made, as we saw last week.”
Bibas emphasized that Modi’in Maccabim-Re’ut, are inseparable from the state of Israel. “Modiin is one of the most rapidly growing cities of Israel and is an integral part of the state, which no one from across the political spectrum challenges.”
Although the European Union later clarified that it was placing only three postal codes from Modi’in Maccabim-Re’ut–not the entire city–on the list of areas deemed ineligible for tax exemptions for goods that are exported to European countries, the Modi’in municipality did not accept the clarification.
“The changed status of these areas is not acceptable and we are doing everything we can to rectify this decision which is not only an attempt to harm the position of Modi’in, but also the sovereignty of the state of Israel,” stressed the mayor.
As for Dovev, 24, she does not believe the EU’s decision will have any impact her family’s decision to reside in the city. “My family will always live here. This is our home no matter the international status,” she stated.