European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday slammed Israel for plans to expand Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood, which is located beyond the Green Line. Ashton’s remarks follow a letter Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman had sent her on Monday, in which he argued against the often-made assertion that the settlements are an obstacle to peace.
Ashton is “seriously concerned about the implications of the recent decision by the Israeli authorities to publish a tender for 130 additional housing units in the settlement of Har Homa,” her spokesperson said. Ashton had already expressed her disapproval of expansion plans for the southern Jerusalem neighborhood 12 months ago.
“Settlements are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible,” Ashton said. “The EU has repeatedly urged the Government of Israel to immediately end all settlement activities in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem.”
Liberman, who met with Ashton last month in Brussels for a meeting of the Israel-EU Association Council, had sent her a four-page letter blaming the Palestinian Authority for the current stalemate and demanding the ouster of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. In the letter, dated August 20 and first published Wednesday by Haaretz, the foreign minister also argues against the notion that the Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line impede the peace process.
“Facts and history, as opposed to the simplistic stereotypes and political bias, contradict the idea that somehow the settlement enterprise is the main obstacle to a renewing the negotiations,” Liberman writes in the letter, a copy of which was also sent to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, according to Haaretz.
“This premise simply does not stand up to the test of reality or the historic precedent of the peace process between Israel and our neighbors. Both peace accords, with Egypt and Jordan, were signed when settlements existed; the claim that settlements are the obstacle to peace is unfounded.”