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EU warns new settlements risk making two-state solution ‘impossible’

Europe’s foreign policy chief says newly announced plans for thousands of West Bank homes mark ‘very worrying trend’

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, holds a press conference with the Lebanese foreign minister after their meeting in Beirut on January 26, 2017. (AFP/Joseph Eid)
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, holds a press conference with the Lebanese foreign minister after their meeting in Beirut on January 26, 2017. (AFP/Joseph Eid)

Israel’s latest announcement of new settlements in the West Bank risks making a two-state solution impossible, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Wednesday.

Israel unveiled plans for 3,000 new homes for West Bank settlements, the fourth such announcement in the less than two weeks since US President Donald Trump took office.

The announcement “marks a very worrying trend, posing a direct challenge to the prospects of a viable two-state solution, which is increasingly difficult and risks becoming impossible,” Mogherini warned in a statement.

The European Union “deeply regrets that Israel is proceeding with this, despite the continuous serious international concern and objections, which have been constantly raised at all levels,” she said.

Israeli construction in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem are viewed as illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians envision for their own state.

Mogherini said continued settlement expansion “goes directly against” EU policy and the recommendations of the Quartet, which is made up of the EU, the United States, the United Nations and Russia.

in this Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 file photo, A Jewish settler looks at the West bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, from the E-1 area on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Sebastian Schooner)
Illustrative: in this Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 file photo, A Jewish settler looks at the West bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, from the E-1 area on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Sebastian Schooner)

“A negotiated two-state solution is the only way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties and to achieve enduring peace,” she said.

While the international community considers settlements illegal, US President Donald Trump has signaled that he will abandon the policies of his predecessors and be far friendlier toward Israeli construction in the West Bank. He has appointed a prominent US supporter of the settlements to be his ambassador to Israel, and a delegation of settler leaders was invited to his inauguration.

This has emboldened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who repeatedly clashed with former president Barack Obama over settlements, to announce a series of construction plans over the past week and a half.

Since Trump took office with top aides sympathetic to the settlement enterprise, the Israeli government has announced a string of new projects that will add more than 6,000 homes for Jewish settlers.

On Tuesday, with the court-ordered evacuation of the Amona outpost looming, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday approved the construction of around 3,000 new homes in the West Bank, some of them outside settlement blocs Israel hopes to keep in a future peace deal with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a meeting with Likud party members at the Knesset on January 30, 2017. AFP/ MENAHEM KAHANA)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a meeting with Likud party members at the Knesset on January 30, 2017. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)

The decision came a week after Israel approved the construction of 566 housing units in East Jerusalem and 2,500 homes in the West Bank.

On Wednesday, Netanyahu announced plans for the establishment of a new West Bank settlement to replace the illegal outpost of Amona, that was being evacuated Wednesday and was to be demolished as per a court order.

The settlement would be the first new one to be built in some 25 years.

The Trump White House has remained silent, a dramatic departure from the vocal condemnations issued by Obama.

Asked at a press briefing last Tuesday for a response to the building plans, White House press secretary Sean Spicer neither approved nor condemned the announcements, saying Trump and Netanyahu would discuss the matter when the Israeli leader visits Washington next month.

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