EU: ‘Serious concern’ over new settlement construction

EU: ‘Serious concern’ over new settlement construction

Continued building ‘steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution,’ Brussels warns after Israel announces over 460 new homes

Illustrative photo of a construction site in Tekoa, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, on September 7, 2014 (Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a construction site in Tekoa, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, on September 7, 2014 (Flash90)

The European Union issued a statement late Thursday condemning Israel’s decision the previous day to approve the construction of over 460 new Israeli homes over the Green Line, calling it “a serious concern.”

The EU statement follows similar comments from the White House on Wednesday.

“The Israeli decision yesterday to endorse an additional 463 housing units in the occupied West Bank and to retroactively approve 179 existing units is a serious concern,” the EU statement read.

“Since January 2016, Israeli authorities have promoted or retroactively legalized 2,706 units in West Bank settlements,” it added.

“The Quartet report published last July identified such action as undermining the prospects for peace and steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution and recommended that any expansion of settlements be frozen. The EU reiterates its strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and all actions taken in this context.”

On Wednesday, in a briefing to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to China, White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the “significant expansion of the settlement activity” a “serious and growing threat to the viability of a two state solution.”

He said the US was “particularly troubled by the policy of retroactively approving illegal outposts and unauthorized settlements.”

“These policies have effectively given the government’s green light for the pervasive advancement of settlement activity in a new and potentially unlimited way,” a senior US official told AFP on Wednesday, warning Israel could torpedo peace hopes.

“As the Quartet report highlights, we are concerned about a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions and legalizations,” he said.

This, the official warned, “fundamentally undermines the prospects for a two-state solution and risks entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict.”

On Wednesday morning, Israel’s governing body in the West Bank approved the construction of 466 new housing units in a slew of settlements.

Israel has defended its settlement building, arguing that Jews have lived in the West Bank and Jerusalem — the city claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians as a capital — for thousands of years.

But the US official warned the Israeli government risks undermining its own case with its aggressive settlement program and a “dramatic acceleration” in the demolition of Palestinian buildings.

Construction in the settlements of Elkana, Ofarim, Beit Aryeh, Givat Ze’ev and Har Gilo was approved by the Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee, which had been convened at the insistence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Army Radio reported.

The largest single bloc, in the settlement of Elkana, east of Tel Aviv, entails the construction of 234 housing units.

The move by the Civil Administration helped the housing units pass an intermediary hurdle on the way to breaking ground.

Another 179 units already constructed illegally in the West Bank settlement of Ofarim, north of Ramallah, were retroactively approved.

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