Israel faced harsh international criticism Wednesday after it advanced plans for the construction of thousands of housing units in the West Bank a day earlier, with representatives of the United Nations and Britain joining the European Union in calling on Jerusalem to curb its activities in the disputed territories.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged Israel to halt the planned construction, saying that further settlement expansion promoted “the effective annexation of the West Bank.” He added that while the Israelis should curtail their own expansion, they ought to “develop improved mechanisms that allow Palestinians to build within Area C.”
Under the Oslo Accords of the mid-1990s, Area C, which constitutes more than 60 percent of the West Bank, is under Israeli administration.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov sounded a similar note, saying in a statement that “the expansion of settlements has no legal effect and constitutes a flagrant violation of international law.”
He said that by “advancing the effective annexation of the West Bank, it undermines the chances for establishing a Palestinian state based on relevant UN resolutions, as part of a negotiated two-state solution. It must cease immediately and completely.”
On Tuesday, the European Union expressed its disapproval of Israel’s plans for over 2,300 new settlement homes, most of them deep in the West Bank.
During sessions on Monday and Tuesday, the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee cleared 1,466 homes through an early planning stage while 838 homes received final approval for construction throughout the West Bank.
The majority of the homes advanced will be located deep in the West Bank, beyond the so-called settlement blocs. Seventy-seven percent of the homes approved Monday and Tuesday will be located beyond the planned or built route of the West Bank security barrier. Among the plans approved by the Civil Administration this week were three projects in wildcat outposts, granting the outposts retroactive legalization.
The batch of approvals followed the security cabinet last month okaying a plan to grant 715 building permits for Palestinians in Israel-controlled Area C in the West Bank, where for decades only several dozen homes have been green-lighted for construction. Due to the political ramifications of the approval, several ministers insisted it be conditioned on the parallel granting of 6,000 building permits for Israeli settlers.
“All settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” the EU said in its statement, decrying what it described as “repeated confiscations, demolitions, displacements and land expropriation” aimed at Palestinians.
“The EU expects the Israeli authorities to fully meet their obligations as an occupying power under International Humanitarian Law, and to cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, of designating land for exclusive Israeli use, and of denying Palestinian development,” the 28-member political union.
“The EU will continue 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.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.