EU urges Israel to reverse its authorization of three West Bank outposts

EU urges Israel to reverse its authorization of three West Bank outposts

Catherine Ashton joins chorus of international condemnation

Catherine Ashton (photo credit: courtesy EU)
Catherine Ashton (photo credit: courtesy EU)

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday urged the Israeli government to reverse its decision to authorize the West Bank outposts of Bruchin, Sansana, and Rechelim.

Ashton said in a statement that she was “extremely concerned” about the move, called on the government to reverse it, and reiterated that the EU sees all settlement activity as illegal, and an obstacle to peace in the region.

On Tuesday, the United States expressed concern. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the US opposed building in the settlements, and was seeking a clarification from the government.

“We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity,” she said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the Israeli government’s decision, saying “designating outposts as settlements… sets a dangerous precedent for other outposts, which are illegal under both international and Israeli law.”

The Israeli government “risks sending the message that it is not serious about its stated commitment to the goal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Hague added.

The UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon called the decision a “provocation,” and said all settlement activity runs contrary to Israel’s obligations under the peace Road Map, according to a media statement.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the announcement pushes things to a “dead end,” according to the Ma’an news agency. Palestinian official Saeb Erekat added that the Palestinians will try to secure a UN Security Council condemnation of the decision.

“We call upon the Israeli government to immediately stop all unilateral acts,” said Palestinian Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh.

In a meeting with US Mideast Envoy David Hale, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh also denounced the move. Jordan “condemns Israeli settlement activities as well as its unilateral measures,” he said, according to AFP.

France and Denmark also criticized the government’s announcement.

France said it considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem illegal. The move sends a negative signal to the “advances of peace” in the region, it added.

Current EU president Denmark said the move represents a “fundamental threat to a two-state solution.” The Danish Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal called it a “great disappointment,” AFP reported.

Others fear that Israel will grant the other 100 unsanctioned outposts similar legal protection, according to media reports.

Meretz chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-On responded to the decision saying that the Israeli government is leading to the establishment of a single, binational state.

However, the government denied that it was embarking on a new, controversial policy, adding that the outposts were unique instances because they had received a degree of government approval when they were first created.

“These communities were founded in the 1990s based on the decisions of past governments,” said a statement issued by the panel which authorized the move. Formed on Sunday, the panel comprised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon, and minister without portfolio Benny Begin.

Bruchin has around 350 residents and is located in the northern West Bank, along with Rechelim, which is home to around 240 people. Sansana, home to 240 people, is in the southern West Bank, near Hebron.

The government is also seeking ways to prevent another outpost, Ulpana, located outside Jerusalem near the Beit El settlement, from having some of its buildings demolished by May 1 — as a Supreme Court decision requires.

Asher Zeiger contributed to this report.

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