The European Union’s envoy to Israel warned that if peace talks with the Palestinians fail due to construction in West Bank settlements, Israel is likely to get the blame for it.
In a weekend interview with the Hebrew-language Walla News website, Lars Faaborg-Andersen laid out potential consequences of the government’s expected announcement this week of further settlement construction.
Faaborg-Andersen said he had made it clear to Israeli officials that such an announcement could seriously damage the US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and in such a case Israel could expect to take the rap. The envoy added that a similar sentiment had been relayed by the ambassadors of the major European powers.
Last Wednesday, Israeli media reported that Netanyahu was planning to announce the government’s approval for construction of 1,400 new homes in Jewish communities in East Jerusalem (600) and the West Bank (800). Channel 10 said the prime minister was going ahead with the announcement despite the station’s assessment that the last such announcement, which coincided with the second phase of Palestinian prisoner releases, almost caused the collapse of peace talks. It said the US and EU had both urged him not to go ahead with the plan, to no avail.
Despite a recent uptick in violence, with attacks on Israeli targets near Gaza and in the West Bank and the attempted bombing of an Israeli bus in Bat Yam last week, the cabinet decided last Wednesday it would proceed as planned with the release of the 26 Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorism.
In November, Netanyahu halted much larger plans for new settlement construction advocated by Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), saying the move to push forward tens of thousands of new units over the Green Line was a “meaningless step” that would create pointless tension with the international community.
The release of Palestinian prisoners was intended as a confidence-building measure to boost peace talks with the Palestinian Authority which restarted in July after a break of several years. Israel agreed to release 104 prisoners, all convicted before the 1993 Oslo Accords, in four phases over the course of the nine-month negotiation process.