Germany: New settler homes cast doubt on Israel’s commitment to 2 states
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Germany: New settler homes cast doubt on Israel’s commitment to 2 states

Berlin warns Jerusalem’s actions in the West Bank could place the entire Mideast peace process at risk

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel address a press conference at the chancellery in Berlin, October 21, 2015. (AFP/Tobias Schwarz)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel address a press conference at the chancellery in Berlin, October 21, 2015. (AFP/Tobias Schwarz)

Germany on Wednesday issued a harsh condemnation of Israel’s approval of thousands of new settlement homes in the West Bank, saying Jerusalem’s actions cast doubt on Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Tuesday’s announcement of new construction went “beyond what we have seen… in the last few months both in terms of its scale and its political significance,” Reuters reported.

He said Berlin now doubted whether Israeli leadership remained committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state. Without such a commitment, he warned, there would be little basis for Mideast peace.

It was an unusually strong response from one of Israel’s closest allies, and it joined a chorus of international condemnations since it announced the move a day earlier.

This file photo taken on December 28, 2016 shows a partial view of the West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev northwest of Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
This file photo taken on December 28, 2016 shows a partial view of the West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev northwest of Jerusalem. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

The European Union branded the announcement a “regrettable” move that would further undermine prospects of negotiating regional peace agreement.

The United Nations echoed the EU in denouncing Israeli initiatives to accelerate settlement construction in Palestinian-claimed territory, stressing that “unilateral actions” are an obstacle to peace based on a two-state solution.

Australia, too, in a rare rebuke of Israel’s settlement enterprise, expressed “concern” over the announcement, and called on Israel to cease unilateral steps that it said undermine the peace process.

The Arab League condemned the announcement as a sign of “contempt” for the international community and an obstacle to peace.

The Palestinians quickly condemned the action, calling it “land theft and colonialism.”

However, in a stark departure from previous US rhetoric, the US did not condemn Tuesday’s announcement, with White House press secretary Sean Spicer saying during Tuesday’s daily press briefing that “we’re going to have a meeting with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and we’ll continue to discuss that.”

Trump has signaled strong support for Israel, and Israeli right-wing politicians have sought to take advantage of this, with hardliners calling for an end to the idea of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu said Wednesday that the new homes were just a “taste” of things to come now that Barack Obama was no longer in the White House.

Raoul Wootliff, Raphael Ahren and AFP contributed to this report.

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