Turkey blasts Israel for new settlement construction

Ankara’s foreign ministry says the building of new homes in the West Bank will ‘irreparably damage the peace process’

A photograph of the construction work being done for a new neighborhood in the Ma'ale Amos settlement on June 18, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
A photograph of the construction work being done for a new neighborhood in the Ma'ale Amos settlement on June 18, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

Turkey slammed Israel Friday over its advancement of plans for more than 1,000 new homes in the West Bank, saying it “strongly condemns” the move.

“The actions taken in disregard of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, irreparably damage the peace process,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement according to the Andolu news agency.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry statement mistakenly referred to the construction of 2,000 homes — on Wednesday the Defense Ministry committee responsible for approving settlement construction gave final authorization to build 382 homes, while it also cleared another 620 for a planning stage known as a “deposit.”

The European Union also expressed its disapproval about the planned construction.

“If implemented, these plans would further jeopardize the prospect of a contiguous and viable future Palestinian state,” the EU’s diplomatic arm said in a statement.

The bloc also reiterated its opposition to settlement construction, which it said is “illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.”

“The European Union will continue to engage with both parties and with its international and regional partners to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties,” it said.

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks during at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian’s top peace negotiator, called for international sanctions on Israel over the new settlement homes.

“Israel’s latest settlement announcement reaffirms the commitment of the Israeli government to colonization and apartheid,” Erekat said in a statement. “It is long overdue time for the international community to impose sanctions on Israel until it recognizes and fulfills its obligations under international law and UN resolutions.”

He also claimed Israel’s “colonial-settlement expansion” in the West Bank was a “war crime” and accused the US State Department of “encouraging Tel Aviv to continue with its violations of international law that threatens peace and security in our region.”

The State Department on Wednesday had refrained from criticizing the approvals.

Among the plans advanced for deposit Wednesday was a 370-home project in the central West Bank settlement of Adam, where Yotam Ovadia was stabbed to death in a terror attack last month. After the incident, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman announced he would be advancing a plan for hundreds of homes to be built in the settlement. While he did not say so explicitly, he was referring to the already existing plan advanced Wednesday.

While most of the projects are located west of the security fence or at least west of its planned route, a number of plans are for more isolated communities.

Projects for 29 homes in the southern West Bank settlement of Otniel and 52 homes in the central West Bank town of Beit El were advanced through the deposit stage.

The West Bank settlement of Beit El, north of Ramallah on November 27, 2012. (Oren Nahshon/FLASH90)

Plans that gained final approval for construction included one for 108 homes in the northern West Bank town of Nofim, one for 168 homes in Tzofim, east of Kfar Saba, and one for 44 homes in Ma’ale Adumim, a city-settlement east of Jerusalem that many right-wing lawmakers have proposed annexing.

While the international community considers all settlement activity illegal, Israel differentiates between legal settlement homes built and permitted by the Defense Ministry on land owned by the state and illegal outposts built without necessary permits, sometimes on private Palestinian land.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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