EU coun­tries de­nounce Is­raeli set­tle­ment plans

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - WORLD - By Fares Akram Fares Akram is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

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.

Hazem Bader / AFP / Getty Im­ages

New build­ings rise in the Is­raeli set­tle­ment of Efrat south of the city of Beth­le­hem in the West Bank.

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