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UK, Japan denounce Israel's illegal settlement expansion

June 14, 2017 7:09 P.M. (Updated: June 14, 2017 7:09 P.M.)
A Palestinian rides on a donkey with a settlement in the background. (Photo: Christian Peacemaker Teams, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The British and Japanese governments lamented Israel’s recent approval of further construction in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank as “not conducive to peace.”

The denunciations came more than a week after Israel’s Civil Administration promoted plans for the construction of at least 1,500 illegal Israeli settler housing units in the West Bank.

“We condemn the announcement of yet further settlement units in the West Bank,” UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson said on Wednesday, according to official Palestinian news agency Wafa. “Settlements are illegal under international law, and not conducive to peace.”

“This spike in settlement activity makes a two-state solution, with an Israel that is safe from terrorism and a Palestinian state that is viable and sovereign, harder to achieve,” Johnson added.

Meanwhile, Japan Foreign Press Secretary Norio Maruyama reiterated his country’s calls for a freeze in Israeli settlement building on Tuesday, echoing Johnson’s statements.

“The government of Japan once again strongly urges the government of Israel to desist from implementing its construction plans that are undermining the viability of a two-state solution,” Maruyama said.

The foreign condemnations came after Israeli NGO Peace Now estimated earlier this month that the number of settlement housing units promoted in the first half of 2017 was almost double that of all of 2016.

According to the organization, plans for 4,909 housing units have so far been pushed forward in 2017, 85 percent more than in the span of 2016, during which 2,657 units were promoted.

When including plans and tenders, the number of housing units advanced during the first five and a half months of 2017 jumped by 286 percent compared to all of 2016 , the group added.

Meanwhile, Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction Yoav Galant presented a plan to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, earlier this month, advocating for 67,000 additional illegal settlement housing units to be built in the occupied West Bank to deal with soaring real estate prices in Tel Aviv.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in settlements across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law.

The estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law. Meanwhile, although Israeli settler outposts -- unapproved by the Israeli government -- are even considered illegal under Israeli law, earlier this year, Israel passed the outpost Regularization law, which would pave the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of Israeli settler outposts.
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