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Egypt slams ‘unjustified, incomprehensible’ settlement plans

New Israeli building permits in East Jerusalem, West Bank undermine international efforts to resume peace process, Cairo says

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Buildings under construction in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba. outside Hebron, July 6, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/HAZEM BADER)
Buildings under construction in the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba. outside Hebron, July 6, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/HAZEM BADER)

Egypt condemned Israel’s recent announcement of new building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in response to the uptick in Palestinian terrorism as “unjustified and incomprehensible,” saying the move served to undermine ongoing international efforts to resume the peace process.

In a statement issued Thursday, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry charged that new building permits announced by Israel on Sunday weren’t conducive to reaching regional peace, joining other countries and international bodies in blasting the move.

“The Israeli escalation is unjustified and incomprehensible, particularly because it coincides with regional and international efforts aimed at encouraging Israelis and Palestinians to build an environment of trust in order to resume negotiations,” Cairo said.

On Sunday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman approved some 800 new homes in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and the nearby West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, after 13-year-old Hallel Ariel was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in her home and Rabbi Miki Mark from the nearby settlement of Otniel was killed in a drive-by shooting last week.

On Wednesday, Channel 2 reported the government was pushing forward with a plan to funnel some NIS 50 million ($12.8 million) to Jewish areas in the West Bank city of Hebron and the neighboring settlement of Kiryat Arba.

Egypt has taken an increasingly active role in the recent international overtures to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In June, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry joined counterparts from 28 other countries for the Paris peace summit, an international conference aimed at advancing the peace process based on a two-state solution.

Israel’s announced settlement expansion raised new hackles in the international community, including the United States, European Union and United Nations.

The State Department responded to the announced construction in the capital in an unusually strongly worded statement that accused Israel of systematically seizing Palestinian land, calling into question Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution.

A day earlier, a spokesman for UN head Ban Ki-moon said the secretary general was “deeply disappointed” by the announcement.

Netanyahu brushed off international criticism at a Wednesday press conference in the Rwandan capital, saying, “Building in Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim is not, with all due respect, distancing peace.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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