US and EU officials are in “close contact” regarding how to best and most
effectively react to Israeli plans for thousands of new Jewish apartments in
east Jerusalem, European diplomatic officials said on Tuesday.
comments came amid reports that the four EU countries on the UN Security Council
– France, Britain, Portugal and Germany – were preparing a statement in the
council condemning the settlement construction. The coordination with the US
stems from a desire to avoid an American veto of any Security Council resolution
on the matter.
In February 2011, the US vetoed a Security Council
resolution that would have condemned all settlements, as well as construction in
east Jerusalem, as illegal. The US said that while it believed the settlements
were illegitimate, the resolution would have hindered chances to resume peace
The European diplomatic officials said on Tuesday that part of the
discussions between the EU and US officials had to do with trying to sort out
what – if anything – was new in the spate of Israeli construction approvals, and
what were “recycled decisions” that were announced now for electoral
The officials said it was likely that any EU reaction would be
in line with a statement issued by its foreign ministers last week that said the
EU was “deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand
settlements in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem, and in particular
plans to develop the E1 area [between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim].
the light of its core objective of achieving the two-state solution,” the
statement continued, “the EU will closely monitor the situation and its broader
implications, and act accordingly. The European Union reiterates that
settlements are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to
Israeli diplomatic officials said they did not know what language
the Europeans were discussing, but did not think it would include a call for
sanctions against Israel for continued settlement activity.
On Monday, US
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington’s opposition to
settlements “has been consistent across at least three
administrations. The issue of where borders are ultimately going to be
has to be settled by negotiation, though.”
British Foreign Secretary
William Hague called the Israeli decision “a serious provocation and an obstacle
to peace” on Tuesday.
“If implemented, it would make a negotiated
two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, very difficult to
achieve,” he said. “We urge Israel to reverse this decision and take no
further steps aimed at expanding or entrenching settlement activity.”
Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed he would continue
construction in Jerusalem and called on all Zionist parties to support building
in the city.
“Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel and the source
of Zionism is in Zion,” he said during a visit to the Acre Hesder Yeshiva. “I
cannot understand how a Zionist party can object to building in
On Wednesday, the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee is
expected to give final approval to stage A of Givat Hamatos, a new neighborhood
in southeast Jerusalem that will house 2,610 new units.
The meeting is to
occur in the midst of four days of municipal and Interior Ministry meetings to
discuss approvals for 6,500 apartments in east Jerusalem.
On Monday, the
Interior Ministry gave final approval to build 1,500 apartments in the Ramat
On Thursday, the ministry is expected to give final
approval to Slopes of Gilo South, a project of some 1,000 apartments.
Palestinians say such
construction would harm their ability to develop a contiguous state on the
pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as their capital. They say the building would
end the chances for a two-state solution, a claim Israel has disputed.
a surprising move, however, on Monday evening, the Interior Ministry did not
approve a major part of the new Givat Hamatos neighborhood.
ministry spokeswoman Efrat Orbach, the committee approved Givat Hamatos B, of
around 700 units, for Arab residents of the Beit Safafa neighborhood.
the committee postponed approvals for plans to build more than 1,000 units for
both Arabs and Jews in Beit Safafa and in Givat Hamatos C.
Yair Gabai (Likud), who sits on both the Local and District Planning committees,
said the project’s rejection at this time was not ideological but rather a
response to poorly presented plans.
“There were problems with roads, with
infrastructure, neighbors who weren’t notified – and that’s why it failed,” he
Left-wing activists also dismissed the postponement as
“Unfortunately, the rejection of this plan is not going to
solve the political problem of construction in Givat Hamatos, because Givat
Hamatos A, the largest plan, will alone... be lethal for the two-state
solution,” Hagit Ofran of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch Team
Overall, 4,000 apartments are planned for Givat Hamatos, of which
1,000 will be for Israeli Arabs.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin spoke
strongly in defense of the plans to build in east Jerusalem as well as on an
unbuilt tract of land in the nearby Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, known as
“In any final-status agreement [with the Palestinians] Israel won’t
cede sovereignty on strategic areas needed to preserve its security, including
the area known as E1,” he said.
Similarly he said, in any agreement for a
two-state solution, “Jerusalem with all of its neighborhoods will remain part of
Israel’s capital. Building there is not subject to negotiation.”
he refused to accept that only weeks after Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired
rockets at Tel Aviv, the international community was focused on Israeli building
in Jerusalem as a stumbling block to peace.
The actions of European
nations have “left the impression that they care more about building a
Palestinian state than about ensuring the existence of a Jewish state,” Rivlin
Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid and political contender Tzipi
Livni attacked Netanyahu’s recent decisions to advance the building
They accused him of playing politics at the expense of Israel’s
relationship with the international community.
Such announcements, Livni
said, did not strengthen Israel and were designed to help Netanyahu create a
right-wing coalition, she said.
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Reuters contributed to this report.