UK, France, Germany slam Israeli announcement to build new settlement
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UK, France, Germany slam Israeli announcement to build new settlement

European powers issue closely timed statements saying new West Bank site for Amona residents will violate international law

A partial view taken on March 31, 2017, shows dismantled caravans from the Amona outpost placed in the West Bank outpost of Shilo. (AFP/Thomas Coex)
A partial view taken on March 31, 2017, shows dismantled caravans from the Amona outpost placed in the West Bank outpost of Shilo. (AFP/Thomas Coex)

The UK, France and Germany on Friday condemned the Israeli security cabinet’s unanimous approval on Thursday to build the first officially sanctioned new settlement in the West Bank in more than 20 years.

The new settlement late was approved late on Thursday for the evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost, which was razed last month after the High Court of Justice ruled that it was built on private Palestinian land. The new settlement will be built next to Shilo.

The cabinet on Thursday also announced the approval of tenders for some 2,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank — housing units whose planned construction, among some 5,500, was first announced in January.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a statement: “These announcements are contrary to international law and seriously undermine the prospects of two states for two peoples. As a strong friend of Israel, and one prepared to stand up for Israel when it faces bias and unreasonable criticism, I urge Israel not to take steps such as these, which move us away from our shared goal of peace and security and make it harder to achieve a different relationship between Israel and the Arab world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, on March 8, 2017 (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on March 8, 2017 (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Johnson added that he was “disappointed that Israel plans to expropriate additional West Bank territory as ‘state land’, and press forward with plans for almost 2,000 housing units in spite of significant international concern.”

The French Foreign Ministry said Israel’s announcements were “extremely worrying” and that Paris “firmly condemns these decisions that threaten peace and risk exacerbating tensions on the ground.”

“France reiterates that settlements are illegal under international law, notably under Resolution 2334 of the UN Security Council. It calls on Israel to respect its international obligation,” the statement read, in reference to the controversial resolution passed in December, with a US abstention, which labeled Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem “illegal.”

A German government spokesperson cited by Haaretz said that “the federal government expects the Israeli government to clarify which solution they are pursuing for a lasting peace with the Palestinians. Germany will not recognize any change in the 1967 lines, which has not been agreed between the parties.”

According to Haaretz, the three European nations published their condemnation statements in close proximity and timed the statements to come out at the same time.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit also condemned the Israeli security cabinet’s decision to build a new West Bank settlement, saying on Friday that the move “clearly showed that Israel isn’t a true partner for achieving peace, and is captive in the hands of radical settlers.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech during a press conference in Istanbul, February 10, 2017. (AFP/OZAN KOSE)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech during a press conference in Istanbul, February 10, 2017. (AFP/OZAN KOSE)

Earlier Friday, the United Nations also expressed its disapproval of the newly planned settlement with a spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres saying the secretary-general expressed “disappointment and alarm” at the announcement.

“The secretary general has consistently stressed that there is no Plan B for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace and security. He condemns all unilateral actions that, like the present one, threaten peace and undermine the two-state solution,” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

The Palestinians reacted furiously to the plans.

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said in a statement on Friday that the Palestinians will “hold Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist government fully responsible for the consequences of such violations.”

“We send a clear message to the US administration, the United Nations and to the European Union: Peace is not going to be achieved by tolerating such crimes,” he added.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said the move showed the government was pushing ahead with “their systematic policies of settler colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, showing a total and blatant disregard for Palestinian human rights.”

The White House, meanwhile, warned Israel against “unrestrained” settlement activity, cautioning that “while the existence of settlements is not in itself an impediment to peace, further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace,” according to an official.

PM Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at the White House, February 15, 2017 (Avi Ohayun/GPO)
PM Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at the White House, February 15, 2017 (Avi Ohayun/GPO)

But the Trump administration did say it welcomed Netanyahu’s announcement Thursday, after the approval of the new settlement, that Israel will curb construction in West Bank settlements as a goodwill gesture to US President Donald Trump.

The Prime Minister’s Office said Thursday that any future construction would be limited to existing settlement boundaries or adjacent to them. However, if legal, security or topographical limitations do not allow adherence to those guidelines, new homes will be built outside the current settlement boundaries but as close as possible to them.

Israel will also prevent the construction of any new illegal outposts, Netanyahu told his ministers.

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