‘Illegal under international law’: EU slams Israel’s settlement plans in East Jerusalem

Reuters / Ronen Zvulun
The EU has criticized Israel for recently approving the construction of 900 new settler homes in East Jerusalem, joining the US and Palestinian condemnation of Tel-Aviv’s settlement policies.

“Israel’s determination to continue its settlement policy despite the urging of the international community not only threatens the viability of the two state solution but also seriously calls into question its commitment to a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians,” the EU said in a statement on Saturday.

“Settlements are illegal under international law,” the statement stressed.

Jerusalem’s district planning committee issued a fresh batch of construction approvals on Wednesday, according to settlement watchdog Peace Now.

The new homes are to be built in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox settlement neighborhood nestled in mostly Arab East Jerusalem, Hagit Ofran, a spokesman for Settlement watchdog Peace Now, told AFP.

The move came shortly after re-elected Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, struck a deal with Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi), a Zionist pro-settlement party, to form a new rightwing-religious coalition government.

The Palestinian authorities condemned the new government, with senior Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, calling it a “colonial settler cabinet.”

Israeli settlement plans were slammed by Washington on Thursday, with US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke calling them “a disappointing development.”

READ MORE: Israel approves construction of 900 settler homes in E. Jerusalem – NGO

“We’re concerned about it just as a new Israeli government has been announced. Moving forward with construction of housing units in East Jerusalem is damaging,” Rathke stressed.

“We continue to engage with the highest levels of the Israeli Government, and we continue to make our position clear that we view this as illegitimate,” he added.

The Israeli interior ministry first voiced plans to build 1,600 settler homes in Ramat Shlomo back in March 2010.

That announcement was made during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israeli, and led to a cool down in relations between Tel-Aviv and Washington, which lasted for months.

Israel captured East Jerusalem back in 1967 and later annexed it, but the international community has never recognized the move.

Stepping up the pace of settlement construction was one of the key points in Netanyahu’s re-election campaign last March.

The Palestinians say no peace deal is possible until Israel withdraws from occupied Palestinian territories and recognizes East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

Israel, however, considers the whole of Jerusalem to be its spiritual capital, and thus an indivisible part of the Jewish state.