The French ambassador to Israel on Wednesday said a new law legalizing West Bank outposts built on private Palestinian land damaged Israel’s credibility in the eyes of the international community.
Israel has come under harsh censure since lawmakers passed the Regulation Law Monday, with the UN saying it crossed a “thick red line,” and other members of the international community warning the measure would make peace efforts more difficult.
“This is troubling for the international community, who is wondering if she should trust Israel when Israel says it’s ready to discuss with its neighbor, the Palestinians, to reach an agreement on the two-state solution,” ambassador Hélène Le Gal told Army Radio in an English-language interview.
“The fact that Israel is accumulating facts on the ground, makes [reaching] a solution more difficult,” she said.
The law allows the appropriation of 16 parcels of private Palestinian land for Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank, paving the way for the government to recognize some 4,000 illegally built homes.
The Palestinians have condemned the law as an attempt to “legalize theft” of their land and on Tuesday Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in Paris for talks with French President Francois Hollande, said he would seek to fight the new law in international forums.
“What we want is peace… but what Israel does is to work toward one state based on apartheid,” Abbas said.
Le Gal noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had on several occasions expressed support for a two state solution, but the new law was taking Israel down “a path that is not leading toward peace or to a solution.”
“The land we are talking about is private land, so the Knesset cannot legislate on this land. If there is a will from Israel to take this land, there has to be a true discussions with the Palestinians, and not unilateral decisions,” she said.
Before it was passed, the controversial legislation was condemned by the previous US administration of Barack Obama, the European Union, the United Nations. Germany’s Foreign Ministry said its faith in Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution was “deeply shaken” by it, and Britain’s minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, said the law “damages Israel’s standing with its international partners.”
Israel’s own attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has also condemned it, warning that it marks the first official Israeli government affirmation of support for wildcat settlements, and would openly curtail property rights of Palestinians in the West Bank in a way that contravenes the protections granted to occupied populations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Paris joined the chorus of condemnations on Tuesday, with Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault saying in a statement that “the law constitutes a blow to the two-state solution.”
“This law in particular perpetuates the existence of dozens of settlements and outposts and gives them a legal basis for future development,” he said, predicting that the bill “will likely intensify tensions in the area.”
“I call on Israel to respect its international obligations and to turn back from this law,” Ayrault added.
“This law in particular perpetuates the existence of dozens of settlements and outposts and gives them a legal basis for future development,” Ayrault said, adding that it violates December’s United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which labeled Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a “flagrant violation under international law” with “no legal validity.”
AP contributed to this report.