As new homes okayed, EU says settlements undermining peace efforts

The European Union Wednesday warned Israel that continued building in the West Bank is endangering efforts to renew peace talks with the Palestinians, as Israel advanced over 2,000 homes in a two-day blitz of approvals.

“The European Union has requested clarifications from Israeli authorities and conveyed the expectation that they reconsider these decisions, which are detrimental to ongoing efforts towards meaningful peace talks,” a statement said.

“This week, Israeli authorities further promoted plans, tenders and permits for thousands of settlement units across the West Bank, including, for the first time since 2002, in the heart of Hebron,” the spokesperson said in the statement.

“All settlement activity is illegal under international law, and it undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace,” the body said.

Turkey also condemned the new building, calling it a “violation” of rights of the Palestinian people.

“We condemn the Israeli authorities’ advancement of the procedure related to the construction of 1,588 additional units at illegal settlements in West Bank which they keep under occupation,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “These unacceptable violations of the most fundamental rights of the Palestinian people destroy the ground for a two-state solution.”

It was not clear where the Turkish number came from.

On Monday, the Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction in the West Bank advanced plans for 1,292 housing units. These included 31 housing units in Hebron, marking the first time in 15 years that Israeli construction has been approved in the flashpoint West Bank city.

On Wednesday, the committee approved an additional 1,323 units across the West Bank, at various stages in the permitting process, including units in Amichai, a settlement planned for the evacuees of the illegally built outpost of Amona which was demolished in February 2017.

Peace Now said the settlement push was “distancing us daily from the possibility of a two-state solution.”

“The government is sending a clear message to settlers: Build illegally and anywhere and we will find a solution for you,” it said in a statement.

Government officials have pledged a major boost in settlement home approvals this year, with US President Donald Trump so far much less critical of such plans than his predecessor Barack Obama.

Israeli officials say a total of around 12,000 housing units will be given various stages of approval this year, four times the amount in 2016.

The EU statement singled out Amichai and plans for new homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, saying it “would severely jeopardize the contiguity and viability of a future Palestinian state.”

The construction plans were approved two years ago but suspended following tensions with the then-administration of president Barack Obama, a harsh critic of Israel’s building policy in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.Some 1,600 new apartments are set to be built in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood, which is over the Green Line, in the south of the capital.

Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 war and considers it part of its undivided capital, does not regard building in the city as settlement activity and has said in maintains the right to build anywhere within municipal boundaries.


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