EU, France condemn Israel over plans to build 1,300 new settlement homes

Bloc calls on Israeli government ‘to not proceed with the announced tenders,’ day after new West Bank housing units announced

Construction work is seen in the West Bank settlement of Yakir, on June 11, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
Construction work is seen in the West Bank settlement of Yakir, on June 11, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

The European Union on Monday criticized Israel’s declaration that it will build over 1,300 new homes in West Bank settlements.

“Settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between the parties,” the bloc said in a statement. “The European Union has consistently made clear that it will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by both sides.

“We call upon the government of Israel to halt settlement construction and to not proceed with the announced tenders.”

France also denounced the Israeli announcement.

“France calls to halt any unilateral step that undermine the two-state solution, a solution based on agreed upon international parameters and that is the only one that has the ability to lead a just and sustainable peace in the region,” the French foreign ministry said.

The statements came a day after the Housing Ministry said that tenders had been published to build 1,355 new housing units in seven different settlements.

The announcement was the first of its kind since US President Joe Biden — who has voiced his opposition to settlement expansion — took office in January.

The Biden administration has yet to publicly comment on the new construction plans, which were also criticized by some members of Israel’s ruling coalition.

Hebrew media outlets reported last week that more than 3,000 new settlement homes are expected to be advanced this week, alongside some 1,300 Palestinian homes in the West Bank’s Area C. The plans for that construction were slated for approval in August, but were delayed.

Media reports have indicated that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is facing pressure from Biden — whom he met in late August at the White House — to restrict settlement building. Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina party, is a longtime proponent of settlement expansion and an outspoken opponent of the establishment of a Palestinian state.

On Friday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US was “concerned” about reports of new settlement housing plans. He called on Israel and the Palestinians to “refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tension and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution” to the conflict.

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