EU countries denounce Israeli settlement plans
JERUSALEM — Israeli plans to advance the building of thousands of settlement units in the occupied West Bank is drawing European condemnation as approvals for constructions hit a record high in 2020.
The European countries warn the building perpetuates the IsraeliPalestinian conflict and further threatens the viability of a twostate solution. The warning came after Israel on Thursday pressed forward on plans for more than 3,000 West Bank settlement homes.
The Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as part of a future independent state. They say the growing settler population, approaching 500,000 in the West Bank, has made it increasingly difficult to achieve their dream of independence.
“We are deeply concerned by the decision taken by the Israeli authorities,” said a joint statement by foreign ministry spokespersons of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
“It is also a counterproductive move in light of the positive developments of normalization agreements reached between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain,” it added, referring to the recent historic agreements between Israel and the two Gulf Arab countries.
Ayman alSafadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, called for international pressure on Israel to stop the building of new settlements. The top diplomat of the European Union also condemned the latest Israeli decision.
“Settlements are illegal under international law. As stated consistently, the EU will not recognize any changes to the pre1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties,” said the bloc’s foreign relations chief Josep Borrell.
The latest Israeli approvals are part of a building boom that has gained steam during the presidency of Donald Trump. It also comes months after Israel promised to put on hold plans to annex parts of the West Bank in exchange for a U.S.brokered normalization deal with the UAE.
The approvals raised the number of settlement homes to be advanced this year to more than 12,150, according to Peace Now, a settlement watchdog group. It is by far the highest number of approvals since Trump took office in early 2017 and the highest since Peace Now began recording the figures in 2012.
A string of U.S. administrations, along with the rest of the international community, have opposed Israeli settlement construction.
But Trump, surrounded by a team of advisers with close ties to the settler movement, has taken a different approach. In contrast to its predecessors, the Trump administration has not criticized or condemned new settlement announcements, and in a landmark decision last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. does not consider settlements to be illegal under international law.
The Trump administration’s Mideast plan, unveiled early this year, calls for leaving 30% of the West Bank, including all of Israel’s more than 120 settlements, under permanent Israeli control.
Buoyed by Trump’s stance, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intended earlier this year to push toward annexing the parts of the West Bank it would keep under the Trump plan. But that plan was scuttled, at least temporarily, after the UAE deal was announced. The UAE has said it made this demand to keep Palestinian hopes alive.
Peace Now views the new construction as “de facto annexation,” which threatens the possibility of a twostate solution to the IsraeliPalestinian conflict.
“Instead of taking advantage of the agreements with the Gulf states and promoting peace with the Palestinians, (Netanyahu) is distorting Israel’s priorities and catering to a fringe minority for these settlement unit approvals that will continue to harm future prospects for peace,” it said in a statement.
New buildings rise in the Israeli settlement of Efrat south of the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank.