EU blasts settlement homes announcement as Palestinians call for sanctions

State Department refrains from criticizing fresh West Bank building, says Israel taking Trump’s ‘concerns into consideration’

A construction site in the West Bank settlement of Ariel on January 25, 2017. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)
A construction site in the West Bank settlement of Ariel on January 25, 2017. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)

The European Union slammed Israel Thursday over its advancement of plans for more than 1,000 new homes in the West Bank, saying they threaten the establishment of a “contiguous and viable” Palestinian state.

On Wednesday, the Defense Ministry committee responsible for approving settlement construction gave final authorization to build 382 homes, while it also cleared another 620 for a planning stage known as a “deposit.”

“If implemented, these plans would further jeopardize the prospect of a contiguous and viable future Palestinian state,” the EU’s diplomatic arm said in a statement.

The bloc also reiterated its opposition to settlement construction, which it said is “illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.”

“The European Union will continue to engage with both parties and with its international and regional partners to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties,” it said.

The comments came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Lithuania with the purpose of courting support within the eastern parts of the European Union.

Before taking off from Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said he wanted “to achieve a balance in the European Union’s not always friendly relations with Israel.”

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks during at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian’s top peace negotiator, called for international sanctions on Israel over the new settlement homes.

“Israel’s latest settlement announcement reaffirms the commitment of the Israeli government to colonization and apartheid,” Erekat said in a statement. “It is long overdue time for the international community to impose sanctions on Israel until it recognizes and fulfills its obligations under international law and UN resolutions.”

He also claimed Israel’s “colonial-settlement expansion” in the West Bank was a “war crime” and accused the US State Department of “encouraging Tel Aviv to continue with its violations of international law that threatens peace and security in our region.”

The State Department on Wednesday had refrained from criticizing the approvals.

“The President has made his position on the settlements clear, and we encourage all parties to continue to work towards peace,” it said. “The Israeli government has made clear that its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the President’s concerns into consideration. The United States welcomes this.”

Among the plans advanced for deposit Wednesday was a 370-home project in the central West Bank settlement of Adam, where Yotam Ovadia was stabbed to death in a terror attack last month. After the incident, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced he would be advancing a plan for hundreds of homes to be built in the settlement. While he did not say so explicitly, he was referring to the already existing plan advanced Wednesday.

View of the settlement of Adam (Geva Binyamin), in the West Bank, as seen from the Jewish neighborhood of Neve Yaakov in Jerusalem, January 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

While most of the projects are located west of the security fence or at least west of its planned route, a number of plans are for more isolated communities.

Projects for 29 homes in the southern West Bank settlement of Otniel and 52 homes in the central West Bank town of Beit El were advanced through the deposit stage.

Plans that gained final approval for construction included one for 108 homes in the northern West Bank town of Nofim, one for 168 homes in Tzofim, east of Kfar Saba, and one for 44 homes in Ma’ale Adumim, a city-settlement east of Jerusalem that many right-wing lawmakers have proposed annexing.

While the international community considers all settlement activity illegal, Israel differentiates between legal settlement homes built and permitted by the Defense Ministry on land owned by the state and illegal outposts built without necessary permits, sometimes on private Palestinian land.

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