EU ‘deeply regrets’ Israel’s settlement expansion

Bloc decries Israeli plans for thousands of new settler homes on occupied Palestinian land.

General budget of the EU
Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, decried the expansion of settlements as a threat to the two-state solution [EPA]

Israel’s recent stream of announcements that it will build thousands of new settler homes in the occupied West Bank “marks a very worrying trend” and risks making a two-state solution impossible, according to the European Union.

Federica Mogherini, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, released on Wednesday a strongly worded statement decrying continued settlement expansion, which she noted is “illegal under international law”. 

The EU “deeply regrets that Israel is proceeding with this, despite the continuous serious international concern and objections, which have been constantly raised at all levels,” she said.

On Tuesday, Israel announced the construction of 3,000 settlement homes in the West Bank, the fourth such announcement in less than two weeks since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.

Since Trump came to power, Israel has approved the construction of 566 housing units in three settlement areas of occupied East Jerusalem and announced the building of 2,502 more in the West Bank.

On Thursday last week, Israeli officials gave final approval for 153 settler homes in East Jerusalem.

“Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have decided to authorise the construction of 3,000 new housing units in Judea-Samaria,” the defence ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, using the term Israel uses for the West Bank, a Palestinian territory it has occupied since 1967.

READ MORE: Palestinians decry Israel’s settlement bill

Expansion plans had been frozen under pressure from the previous US administration of President Barack Obama, which had warned that settlements could derail hopes of a negotiated two-state solution.

Trump, however, has pledged strong support for Israel, and Netanyahu’s government has moved quickly to take advantage.

“We are building and we will continue building,” Netanyahu said last week, referring to settlement approvals.

The prime minister has said he sees the Trump presidency as offering “significant opportunities” after facing “huge pressures” from Obama on Iran and settlements.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The international community views them as a major obstacle to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

More than half a million Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.

“Since the start of 2017, the Israeli authorities have made clear that they plan to accelerate the construction of illegal settlement homes and seize further Palestinian territory in flagrant violation of international law,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The flurry of recent announcements signals that the Israeli government, emboldened by the Trump administration, feels no need to hide its brazen violations of the rights of the occupied Palestinian population.”

Source: News Agencies