France and Canada pan Israel’s legalization of five new West Bank settlements

Other European states already slammed measures pushed by Smotrich to sanction Palestinian Authority, advance plans for thousands of West Bank homes

Jews attend a special prayer at the newly recognized Evyatar outpost, in the West Bank, July 7, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/ Flash90)
Jews attend a special prayer at the newly recognized Evyatar outpost, in the West Bank, July 7, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/ Flash90)

France and Canada on Monday slammed Israel’s recognition of five new West Bank settlements, as well as sanctions against the Palestinian Authority that were approved at the end of last month.

In a statement, France’s Foreign Ministry said it “strongly condemns” the moves, as well as Wednesday’s declaration by the Civil Administration of the state’s appropriation of thousands of acres of land in the Jordan Valley.

The statement said that the moves were “extremely serious” because of their implications for the stability of the West Bank and the region.

“Israeli colonization of the Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, constitutes a violation of international law,” France said.

“In addition to being a major obstacle to any just and lasting peace, this policy fuels tensions on the ground as violence perpetrated by settlers increases against the Palestinian population.”

Canada urged the government to reverse the decisions, saying the move was in contravention of international law.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a Religious Zionism faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“Canada firmly opposes the government of Israel’s decision to approve new settlements in the West Bank. Unilateral actions, such as financially weakening the Palestinian Authority and expanding settlements are in contravention of international law,” the Canadian foreign ministry said in a statement on X.

The security cabinet approved the legalization of Evyatar in the northern West Bank, Sde Efraim and Givat Asaf in the central West Bank, and Heletz and Adorayim in the south of the territory, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s office said last month, adding that the cabinet had also approved advancing plans for thousands of new settlement homes in the West Bank.

In exchange, Smotrich agreed to extend indemnity to Israeli banks working with Palestinian ones in the West Bank for an additional four months and agreed to partially release three months’ worth of tax revenues that Israel collects on the PA’s behalf, which did not include a significant portion that the PA uses to pay for services and employees in Gaza. Israel claims those funds would end up in the hands of Hamas if paid.

Smotrich had refused to release the Palestinian tax revenues since April, bringing the authority to the brink of collapse, despite repeated warnings by Israel’s security establishment. The tax revenues account for some 70 percent of the PA’s annual income.

On Thursday, Norway condemned Israel’s decision to “legalize” five West Bank settlement outposts, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C) recites a prayer during a meeting with members of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 24, 2024. (Thaer Ghanaim / PPO / AFP)

The United Kingdom also “strongly opposes” the Israeli government’s recent legalization of five settler outposts in the West Bank, according to a spokesperson for Britain’s Foreign Office last week.

Last month, the EU slammed the move as “another deliberate attempt at undermining peace efforts” while Germany called it “disturbing and cynical.”

Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), claimed the move is aimed at pursuing a “war of genocide” against Palestinians, adding the settlements are “illegal colonies that violate all international resolutions.

While the international community considers all settlements illegal, Israel differentiates between settlement homes built and permitted by the Defense Ministry on land owned by the state, and illegal outposts built without necessary permits, often on private Palestinian land. In recent years, though, Israeli governments have increasingly sought to regulate the wildcat outposts, rather than demolish them.

US President Joe Biden’s administration fears the collapse of the PA would lead to chaos in the West Bank that would be exploited by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad cells to open a new front to the war in Gaza, a US official told The Times of Israel last month, adding that the concerns are shared by the Israeli security establishment.

Already then, the official indicated that the quid pro quo would not satisfy the administration, warning that the sides are liable to find themselves in the same situation a month or two down the line “if and when [Smotrich] decides to hold up the funds again.”

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