UN, EU denounce approval of fresh settlement homes
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UN, EU denounce approval of fresh settlement homes

Ban Ki-moon calls planned housing projects in Beit El and East Jerusalem ‘impediment to peace’; PLO labels move a ‘war crime’

Israeli security forces walk by a building in which Israeli settlers had barricaded themselves to resist an evacuation at the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank town of Ramallah, July 28, 2015. (FLASH90)
Israeli security forces walk by a building in which Israeli settlers had barricaded themselves to resist an evacuation at the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank town of Ramallah, July 28, 2015. (FLASH90)

The European Union, United Nations and others panned the Israeli government for green-lighting construction projects in the West Bank settlement of Beit El and Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem beyond the 1967 Green Line boundary.

The recent decision “calls into question the Israeli government’s stated commitment to a negotiated two-state solution in the Middle East Peace Process,” a EU statement read.

“We urge the government of Israel to urgently reverse recent decisions and put an end to settlement expansion,” it continued.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved Wednesday the “immediate” construction of 300 settler homes in the West Bank as his government came under pressure from right-wing Jewish groups.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon denounced Netanyahu’s move and called on the government to reverse its decision.

UN Secretary General- Ban Ki-moon on July 13, 2015 (Tony Karumba/AFP)
UN Secretary General- Ban Ki-moon on July 13, 2015 (Tony Karumba/AFP)

Ban declared that “settlements are illegal under international law, an impediment to peace and cannot be reconciled” with Israel’s “stated intention to pursue a two-state solution,” his spokesman said in a statement released in New York.

Ban urged Israel “to halt and reverse such decisions in the interest of peace,” his spokesman said.

A senior Palestine Liberation Organization official denounced the plans to build new homes as “war crimes” and accused Israel of sabotaging peace efforts.

“These settlement measures and war crimes are part of a plan by Israeli leaders to impose a ‘Greater Israel’ on historic Palestine and destroy the two-state solution and the chance for peace,” senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

 

West Bank settlements are seen by many as major impediments to peace negotiations with the Palestinians, who claim the land as part of a future independent state, and Western nations have called on Israel to halt such projects.

“After consultations in the Prime Minister’s Office, the immediate construction of 300 homes in Beit El has been authorized,” Netanyahu’s office said Wednesday, adding that planning for another 504 homes in annexed East Jerusalem had also been approved.

According to the statement, the 300 units had been promised three years ago following the demolition of other homes in the Beit El settlement.

The approval came after the High Court upheld earlier Wednesday a demolition order for two structures built illegally in Beit El. The planned demolition had drawn protests from settler groups, who clashed with police at the site on Tuesday and Wednesday.

‘Zionist response’

Netanyahu had said he opposed the demolition, which began Wednesday.

Right-wing members of his government also spoke out strongly against the demolition, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett hailed the announcement of new construction.

“This decision is a Zionist response,” Bennett, of the right-wing Jewish Home party, said in a statement. “This is the way in which we will build our country.”

The prime minister holds only a one-seat majority in parliament following March elections and settler groups wield significant influence in his government.

Israeli security forces scuffle with Jewish settlers in the Israeli settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 29, 2015, following the High Court's decision to upheld an earlier order to demolish two buildings in the settlement. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli security forces scuffle with Jewish settlers in the Israeli settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 29, 2015, following the High Court’s decision to upheld an earlier order to demolish two buildings in the settlement. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though not by the Israeli government. They are seen as further complicating peace negotiations aimed at leading to an independent Palestinian state. Talks have been stalled since last year.

“These settlement measures and war crimes are part of a plan by Israeli leaders to impose a ‘Greater Israel’ on historic Palestine and destroy the two-state solution and the chance for peace,” senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

Left-wing Jerusalem watchdog group Ir Amim accused Netanyahu of “placing the interests of the settlers ahead of those of all Israeli citizens and the future of the Middle East.”

“Once again Netanyahu caved under the combined pressure of the settler-controlled right and the construction criminals in the [occupied] territories, and is advancing construction in East Jerusalem contrary to Israeli interests and the position of the international community,” a statement by the group read.

The two buildings being demolished in Beit El were reportedly on private Palestinian land that was seized by the army in the 1970s.

Several hundred protesters clashed with police Tuesday as authorities took control of the buildings, then again Wednesday as demolition started. Police used water cannon to push back protesters and detained a number of people.

In a separate incident Tuesday, several hundred people illegally entered the former Sa-Nur settlement in the northern West Bank, which Israel had evacuated in 2005.

Israel seized the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War and nearly 400,000 Jewish settlers currently live there.

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