Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Saturday criticized the European Union, Britain, and France for their condemnation of a plan to construct hundreds of additional apartments in a Jerusalem neighborhood situated across the 1967 Green Line.
The Interior Ministry on Thursday approved a plan to expand the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo by 797 units. The plan was published for validation in an Israeli newspaper in what was the last phase of the planning process, AFP reported.
“Gilo is an inseparable part of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is an inseparable part of Israel,” Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) said in a statement. “These automatic condemnations indicate a lack of a basic understanding of the reality in the region.”
“These condemnations contribute nothing to the advancement of dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. They only encourage the Palestinian side to stick to its refusal to negotiate and continue its anti-Israeli activities in the international arena,” Liberman stated.
“The EU should focus on the problems that are surfacing between different nations on European soil. After these issues are successfully resolved, we will gladly hear any suggestions,” he said.
Likud Ministers Gideon Sa’ar and Gilad Erdan also slammed the EU countries’ criticism of the housing plans.
Sa’ar said the EU was fixated on the Gilo housing project “while the rest of the region is up in flames.” Erdan said the EU should finally realize “that Jerusalem is the basis for existence of the Jewish state of Israel.”
Zahava Gal-on (Meretz), however, criticized Liberman for “going against the EU less than one week after the group [helped Israel] by increasing its sanctions against Iran.”
On Friday, the French Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning the Interior Ministry’s decision, calling it “a provocation in an already-tense context.” Paris reiterated its stance that Israeli settlement construction is illegal, “undermines trust-building between the parties, and constitutes an obstacle to a just peace based on the two-state solution.”
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she “deeply regrets” the Israeli government’s decision, adding that Jerusalem’s continued expansion of Jewish settlements like Gilo and Har Homa “continue the process of separating East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory.”
Ashton emphasized the EU’s stance that negotiations are “the best way forward in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and that settlement expansion hinders progress towards peace.
British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt strongly condemned the plan, which he regarded as “deeply worrying.” He added that London “has been clear that Israeli settlements are illegal and undermine the possibility of a two state solution.”