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EU condemns Israel's illegal settlement plans in occupied East Jerusalem

July 7, 2017 4:23 P.M. (Updated: July 7, 2017 8:33 P.M.)
The East Jerusalem Israeli settlement of Ramat Shlomo (AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The European Union (EU) condemned Israel’s plans to advance some 1,500 new illegal settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem in a statement released Friday, which said the plans “undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospect for a lasting peace.”

The spokesperson for the EU reiterated that Israel’s settlement policy was illegal under international law, adding that the move would “undermine” the two-state solution and the “prospect for lasting peace.”

Israeli NGO Peace Now reported on Monday that Israeli authorities were planning to discuss the advancement of nearly 1,800 housing units for illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.

The plans are expected to include two new buildings -- respectively three and five stories tall -- in the heart of the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah that will require the expulsion of five Palestinian families, up for discussion at Israel’s Jerusalem Regional Committee on July 16.

Additionally, a nine story yeshiva campus that includes student accommodation and a six-story office building are also planned to be built in Sheikh Jarrah. Hundreds of other housing units are set to be discussed to expand existing East Jerusalem settlements.

According to Peace Now, the Sheikh Jarrah plans represent the first time in recent years that new housing units are being planned for settlers within a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

The EU statement emphasized that the EU “expects the Israeli authorities to reconsider these decisions.”

“The EU expects both sides to engage in a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties, and stands ready to support them in this endeavor, together with international and regional partners,” the statement said.

However, a growing number of Palestinians have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.

After reports emerged last month that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised the United States government to stop marketing new settlement units for the rest of 2017, Peace Now called the alleged promise “another spin of the Netanyahu government trying to fool the public.”

Pointing to information gathered from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS), Peace Now highlighted that this year, the Israeli government had already issued tenders for the construction of 2,858 settlement units in the West Bank.

The numbers marked an “unprecedented number of units” ever recorded -- at least since 2002, which is the earliest data available.

Since the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis have moved into Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, 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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