Top European officials on Wednesday slammed Israel recently announced plan to build more than a thousand new housing units in East Jerusalem and Ariel.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement that Germany expects all sides in the Middle East conflict “to refrain from anything that will make the resumption of negotiations more difficult.”
He said Germany backs the European Union’s position that Israel’s settlement policy is “a hindrance to the peace process.”
Westerwelle’s sentiments echoed the sharp statement of his British counterpart.
“I condemn yesterday’s provocative decision to advance settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank through the publication of tenders for 1,285 settlement housing units,” Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The UK has been consistently clear that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, and by altering the situation on the ground are making the two state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly hard to realize.
“It is deeply disappointing that the Government of Israel continues to ignore the appeals of the UK and other friends of Israel,” he continued.
Burt, a member of Parliament from the Conservative Party, is to visit Israel later this month.
Building tenders for the units located beyond the Green Line were issued by the Israel Land Authority on Tuesday. The majority of the tenders were in Jerusalem neighborhoods formally annexed by Israel.
Of the units, 606 are slated for Ramot and 607 for Pisgat Ze’ev, both Jewish neighborhoods inside Jerusalem city limits built on land captured during the 1967 Six Day War. An additional 72 units are slated for the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
Peace Now called the tenders Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ”true answer” to PA President Mahmoud Abbas and linked the issue to the US elections.
On Thursday, Abbas told Channel 2 News that he was not seeking territory within pre-1967 Israel and did not personally seek the right to live in Israel, even though he was born in Safed, in remarks that implied a moderated stance on the longstanding Palestinian demand for a “right of return” to Israel for millions of refugees and descendants of refugees.
“Chairman Abbas again declared his strong commitment to the two-state solution, and Netanyahu replied with thousands of new housing units in settlements,” the left-wing Peace Now said in a statement. “It seems that Netanyahu is afraid of the new administration that is being elected today in the US, and he has chosen this time to publish the tenders so that there will be the least public attention to his action.”
Building by Israel in East Jerusalem is often an issue of international controversy, with Palestinians claiming the area as part of the capital of their future state.