EU joins criticism of Israel’s East Jerusalem, West Bank building plan
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EU joins criticism of Israel’s East Jerusalem, West Bank building plan

Brussels follows the US, UN in saying move calls into question Israel’s commitment to peace with Palestinians

A picture taken on July 4, 2016, shows a mobile cabin in the Jewish neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, in East Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)
A picture taken on July 4, 2016, shows a mobile cabin in the Jewish neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, in East Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Thomas Coex)

The European Union joined Washington and the United Nations on Wednesday in condemning recently announced Israeli plans for new building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, saying the move “threatens the viability of the two-state solution.”

In a statement, the EU’s External Action Service, its version of a foreign ministry, said the move “calls into question Israel’s commitment to a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians.”

“Despite repeated calls by the international community Israel is continuing its settlement policy, which is illegal under international law. The EU urges Israel to stop this policy and to reverse its recent decision,” the statement continued.

On Sunday, Israel said it would push ahead with plans for some 560 new in Ma’ale Adumim, a West Bank settlement to the east of the capital, along with 240 homes in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and another 600 in an Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood.

President of the European Union Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, center, President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, left, and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini following a meeting at the European Union Commission headquarter in Brussels, June 23, 2016. (AFP/THIERRY CHARLIER)
President of the European Union Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, center, President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, left, and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini following a meeting at the European Union Commission headquarter in Brussels, June 23, 2016. (AFP/Thierry Charlier)

The move came in response to the killing of Hallel Yaffa Ariel, the 13-year-old Israeli stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist while asleep in her own bed in Kiryat Arba on Thursday, and to the shooting of Rabbi Miki Mark and the injuring of his family as they were driving near Hebron a day later.

State Department Spokesman John Kirby speaks during the daily briefing at the State Department on January 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN)
State Department Spokesman John Kirby (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

US State Department spokesman John Kirby on Tuesday called the plans “the latest step in what seems to be the systematic process of land seizures settlement expansions and legalization of outposts that is fundamentally undermining the prospects for a two-state solution.”

“This action risks entrenching a one state reality and raises serious questions about Israel’s intentions,” he said, citing a report released by the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers that criticized Israeli settlement building.

The State Department’s statement followed a similar denunciation from UN chief Ban Ki-moon a day earlier.

File: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 14, 2016 at the United Nations in New York (AFP/Don Emmert)
File: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 14, 2016 at the United Nations in New York (AFP/Don Emmert)

The UN leader is “deeply disappointed” that Israel’s announcement came days after last week’s release of a key report by the Middle East diplomatic quartet — the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations — that urged Israel to stop building settlements, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement Monday.

“This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by continuing statements of some Israeli ministers calling for the annexation of the West Bank,” he added.

Ban said that “settlements are illegal under international law” and called on the Israeli government to “halt and reverse such decisions in the interest of peace and a just final status agreement.”

On Wednesday in Rwanda, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the criticism, and said it was Palestinian incitement and terrorism, not Israeli building, that was preventing peace.

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