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UN, EU slam Israel's approval of large-scale settlement expansion, urge a halt to the decision

July 5, 2016 9:05 P.M. (Updated: July 6, 2016 7:06 P.M.)
Israeli settlement Modiin Ilit behind the separation wall. View from Bilin. Anna Kokko, intern
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The United Nations and European Union slammed Israel’s recent approval of hundreds of new settler units across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in statements released on Monday urging Israel to halt the decision.

The spokesperson for the European Union reacted to Israel’s recent announcement, saying the decision “threatens the viability of the two-state solution and calls into question Israel's commitment to a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians.”

“Despite repeated calls by the international community Israel is continuing its settlement policy, which is illegal under international law. The EU urges Israel to stop this policy and to reverse its recent decision,” the statement added.

Some 140 homes in the Jewish settlement of Ramot in occupied East Jerusalem and 100 in the Har Homa settlement in southeastern Jerusalem were approved by the Israeli government for construction on Sunday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also approved plans to construct 560 new housing units for Jewish Israelis in the illegal settlement of Maale Adumim, as far-right lawmakers also announced their intentions to introduce legislation to annex the settlement to Israel.

The Israeli government has also opened a tender for the construction of 42 housing units in Kiryat Arba in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, a decision made in the wake of the brutal killing of a 13-year-old Israeli girl in the settlement by a Palestinian resident of Hebron.

According to a UN statement released on Monday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also condemned Israel’s decision, urging Israeli leaders to halt the plans in order to advance peace negotiations for a final-status agreement.

“This raises legitimate questions about Israel's long-term intentions, which are compounded by continuing statements of some Israeli ministers calling for the annexation of the West Bank,” Ban’s spokesperson said.

The statement also noted that Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, made a statement on Sunday highlighting that the frustrations felt by Palestinians for an occupation entering its 50th year could not be “wished away.”

“At the end of the day, the sad reality for peoples on both sides of the conflict is that the things which they hold most dear -- statehood [for Palestinians] and security [for Israelis] -- are slipping further away,” Mladenov said.

Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi also responded to Israel’s recent plans in the occupied Palestinian territory in a statement on Monday, saying that the move was a “blatant disregard for international laws and conventions, standing UN resolutions and global consensus.”

“By isolating Jerusalem from its Palestinian environs and ethnically cleansing the occupied city of its indigenous population, the Israeli government is bent on destroying the viability, integrity and territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Ashrawi said.

Ashrawi also highlighted the significance of the settlement construction approval in the wake of the recent report released by the Middle East Quartet, which cited Israel’s settlement building as one of the major obstacles to peace in the region.

“We call on all members of the international community to uphold their moral, legal and political responsibilities and to hold Israel to account for its blatant violations of international law and consensus. The chances for the two-state solution are rapidly disappearing; if Israel is not stopped, extremism and violence will prevail,” Ashrawi added.

Israeli human rights watchdog Peace Now also condemned the decision on Monday, saying the recent settlement approvals endangered “both the possibility for peace and two states and the security of Israeli citizens.”

Palestinian Authority spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud, meanwhile, also strongly criticized the move, saying that it was part of a recent escalation in Israeli incitement and threats in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Al-Mahmoud called on the international community to urgently take action against Israeli escalations, adding that its silence towards Israeli policies which are illegal under international law encouraged Israel to continue its attacks against Palestinians.

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