The EU’s condemnation of Israeli building in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood harms
the peace process and ignores the fact that the unified city is Israel’s
capital, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Saturday.
He spoke one
day after EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned a plan to build 797
homes in Gilo and called it settlement building.
An Interior Ministry
regional planning committee gave initial approval to the project in June and
completed the planning process on Thursday, according to Hagit Ofran of Peace
But before construction can begin, the Ministry of Construction and
Housing and/or the Israel Lands Authority must call for tenders and the
Jerusalem Municipality must issue building permits.
community and the Palestinians have long called on Israel to halt Jewish
building in east Jerusalem, saying the area should be part of a Palestinian
Israel says a united Jerusalem will remain part of Israel and is
not a settlement.
Mayor Nir Barkat said on Saturday, “Gilo is an
inseparable part of Jerusalem and we are not going to apologize for that. We
will continue to build tens of thousands of apartments across the entire city
for all sectors. The only way to lower the price of apartments is to
continue building without stopping, as we are now doing in order to allow young
people to live in Jerusalem and build themselves a future.”
Ashton’s office said Israel’s continued expansion of Gilo was
“Settlements are illegal under international law and
threaten to make a two-state solution impossible. The EU has repeatedly urged the
government of Israel to immediately end all settlement activities in the West
Bank, including in east Jerusalem, in line with its obligations under the road
map,” her office said.
Construction in Gilo as well as in the east
Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa “continue the process of separating east
Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory,” Ashton’s office
“The European Union maintains that negotiations continue to
represent the best way forward in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Continuous expansion of settlements makes this all the more difficult,” the
Liberman, who is also chairman of Yisrael Beytenu, shot back
on Saturday by saying it was the condemnation of such building that hampered any
possibility of renewing direct negotiations with the Palestinians, which the
Palestinians have largely frozen for almost four years.
condemnations indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the reality of the
region,” Liberman said.
“These condemnations do not contribute anything
to the advancement of talks between Israelis and Palestinians. They only
encourage the Palestinians to continue to refuse to participate in negotiations
and to continue their anti-Israeli activity in the international
Those who want to help the sides to reach a final-status
agreement should work to stop the Palestinians from this anti- Israeli activity,
said Liberman, rather than condemning construction for peaceful civilians that
harms no one.
“The Gilo neighborhood is an inseparable part of Jerusalem,
and Jerusalem is an inseparable part of Israel,” the foreign minister
He added that the EU’s efforts would be better spent on problems
between different groups and nations on its own continent.
we’d be happy to hear suggestions as to how to solve problems with the
Palestinians,” he said.
With an eye toward January’s election, right-wing
politicians immediately issued statements about the party’s commitment to a
untied Jerusalem as the country’s capital.
Education Minister Gideon
Sa’ar (Likud) said, “It’s strange that at a time when the Middle East is
burning, thousands of Syrian civilians are begin killed, Iran is pursuing
nuclear weapons, the thing that worries the EU is construction in Jerusalem’s
It shows how “irrelevant” the EU is when it comes to
matters in this region, he said.
“Our right to Jerusalem is not less than
that of the British to London, or the French to Paris,” Sa’ar said.
Danny Danon (Likud) called on Liberman to protest the EU’s statement by
canceling a visit due next month by EU representatives.
MK Uri Ariel
(National Union) said the Netanyahu government had nothing to be proud of,
because it had a poor record of building in the capital.
Kingdom joined Ashton in condemning the Gilo construction.
Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt also said settlements were illegal and
undermined a two-state solution. “It is deeply worrying that despite repeatedly
raising our concerns, Israel continues to press ahead with plans to expand them.
I therefore strongly condemn [Thursday’s] news,” Burt said. “This move is
contrary to Israel’s stated commitments to both the two-state solution and to
upholding international law. We urge Israel to reverse this decision and take no
further steps to expand settlements.”
Melanie Lidman and Reuters
contributed to this report.