Five European nations condemn Israeli approval of 5,288 new settler homes

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They called for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 which demands that Israel return to the pre-1967 lines.

EUROPEAN HIGH Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell attends a news conference earlier this month in Brussels, Belgium. (photo credit: REUTERS/OLIVIER HOSLET)

EUROPEAN HIGH Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell attends a news conference earlier this month in Brussels, Belgium.

(photo credit: REUTERS/OLIVIER HOSLET)

Five European countries and the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell sharply condemned Israel’s advancement and approval this week of plans for 5,288 new settler homes.

The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain issued a joint statement Friday in which they called on Israel to permanently halt plans to annex portions of the West Bank, as well as settlement activity, which imperils the two-state solution.

The five foreign ministers added that it was a “counterproductive move in light of the positive developments of normalization agreements reached between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.”

They called for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2334 which demands that Israel return to the pre-1967 lines.

The ministers spoke out after the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria held its first meeting in eight months on Wednesday and Thursday, during which it approved and advanced plans for the construction of 5,288 homes, bringing the annual total of such plans to 9,333. This does not include the deposit of plans for 3,165 homes for Ma’aleh Adumim’s E1 project.

The approvals took place on the sidelines of Israel’s historic Knesset vote on Thursday, by which it overwhelmingly approved a peace deal with the United Arab Emirates. It is only the third such deal that exists, following the Egyptian one in 1979 and the Jordanian one in 1994. Bahrain has also agreed to a normalization deal with Israel, but that has not come to a vote yet.

Both Arab states required Israel to suspend its plans to annex portions of the West Bank as a prerequisite for the agreements.

It remains unclear if settlement construction must also be halted. The spate of new approvals has assuaged but not eliminated the fear of a settlement freeze among the Israeli Right.

Borrell called on Israel to halt all settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem and in particular in the Jewish neighborhoods there of Har Homa and Givat Hamatos. He also spoke out against Ma’aleh Adumim’s E1 project.

“Against the background of normalization of relations between Israel, UAE and Bahrain, Israelis and Palestinians should seize this opportunity and take urgent steps to build confidence and restore cooperation along the line of previous agreements and in full respect of international law,” Borrell said.

Borrell also took the opportunity to condemn Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes.

“The period from March to August 2020 also saw a spike in demolitions or confiscations of Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU reiterates its call on Israel to halt all such demolitions, including of EU-funded structures, in particular in light of the humanitarian impact of the current pandemic,” he said.

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