Israel summoned by 5 European countries over new settlements

Israel has been summoned by 5 European countries this week over its decision to approve settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in retaliation against Palestine’s accordance of “non-member state observer” status by the United Nations. 

Shortly after the General Assembly’s two-thirds majority vote in support of the Palestine resolution, Israel announced that it will proceed with the construction of 3,000 new settlement homes in disputed territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In addition to resuming settlement activities, Israel will “block the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues to the Palestinian National Authority.”

Israel’s latest actions, which would deal a very significant blow to the already-fragile peace process, have been strongly criticized by the European Union – particularly member countries like the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Sweden, and Denmark – as well as the United States. The swift public rebukes reflected the growing unpopularity of Israel’s heavy-handed tactics against the Palestinians, particularly Israel’s strict blockade and intense air strikes in Gaza where half the population is under the age of 18.

“Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and undermine trust between the parties. If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve. They would undermine Israel’s international reputation and create doubts about its stated commitment to achieving peace with the Palestinians,” said U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The French Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli Ambassador on Monday to “condemn Israeli settlement activity in all its forms.”

The government of Spain pointed out that the new Israeli settlements “would result in an irreversible separation of East Jerusalem from the remainder of Palestinian territories”, which would make the two-state solution all but impossible. Under the proposed two-state solution, East Jerusalem would become the capitol for the Palestinian state.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s High Representative, noted that Israel’s proposed settlement “represent a strategic step undermining the prospects of a contiguous and viable Palestine with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both it and Israel.”

Along with the foreign ministries of U.K., France, Spain, and Sweden, Ashton called on Israel to reverse its unilateral decision and work with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to settle the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“I ask the government of Israel to show its commitment to the early renewal of negotiations to end the conflict and the occupation by not taking forward these plans,” Ashton stated.

The United States, a close ally of Israel and one of the only 9 countries that voted against the U.N. resolution for Palestine, issued a statement opposing Israel’s settlement activities.

“The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations, and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations,” stated Mark Toner, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department. “We have made clear to the Israeli Government that such action is contrary to U.S. policy.”


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