The US, the EU and the Palestinians warned Israel that its announcement Friday
of new tenders for 800 new homes in West Bank settlements and 600 in east
Jerusalem was harmful to the peace process.
“It is never helpful to have
steps taken that are not conducive to our efforts in moving forward on peace.
We’ve called on both sides, as you know, many, many times to create a positive
atmosphere for negotiations.
So anything that doesn’t do that is
unhelpful,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in
Washington on Friday.
“We consider now and have always considered the
settlements to be illegitimate, and we express that, of course, on a regular
basis, as needed,” Psaki said.
“But the reality is both sides remain
committed to discussing the framework, committed to moving forward, and we’ll
keep working with them,” she said.
The 600 units announced to be built in
east Jerusalem, are set to be in the neighborhoods of Ramat Shlomo near Ramot,
Har Hotzvim and Shuafat.
Initial plan reports for Ramat Shlomo homes were
published during a 2010 visit of US vice president Joseph Biden. They marred the
visit and created a problem for the indirect talks that had been taking place at
In addition, on Friday, the Construction and Housing Ministry
published tenders for the following West Bank settlements: 227 units in Efrat,
78 in Alfei Menashe, 86 in Karnei Shomron, 40 in Ariel, 75 in Geva Binyamin
(Adam), 24 in Betar Illit, 102 in Emmanuel and 169 in Eliana.
settlements are located within the planned route of the security barrier and a
number of them are close to the Green Line, with Betar Illit located only four
kilometers over it.
Efrat is located 6.5 km. over the pre-1967 lines as
Alfei Menashe is 2.8 km. past those lines, Elkana is located
3.1 km., Geva Binyamin is 6.6 km., Karnei Shomron is 9 km., Immanuel 13.2 km.,
and Ariel is 16.1 km. beyond the lines.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine
Ashton responded to the announcement, saying that “the settlements are illegal
under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make
the two-state solution impossible.”
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said
that the “recent announcement shows Israel’s clear commitment to the destruction
of peace efforts and the imposition of an apartheid regime.”
that the Israeli government is “openly displaying its true agenda.”
said that the announcement of yet more settlement units at this particular time
is a test for the US Administration’s ability to hold Israel accountable for
actively sabotaging their efforts for peace.
“Such an announcement should
also serve as a reminder to the international community to sever all ties with
the Israeli occupation,” Erekat continued.
“These are positive and active
ways in which the international community can protect and help to realize the
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for PA President
Mahmoud Abbas, also condemned the new announcement. He said the announcement is
a sign of continued Israeli intransigence.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid
(Yesh Atid) vowed that the party he heads would do everything it could to block
the building of the new 1,400 units over the pre-1967 lines. “These are not
building tenders, but declarations to build, which are void of content. It’s a
bad idea. Yesh Atid will do everything it can to ensure that it remains simply a
bad idea, and won’t be executed.”
European leaders and the US urged Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not to move forward with the new building plans,
because such measures are harmful to the peace process.
Israel refused to
cede but did agree to delay its announcement until after US Secretary of State
John Kerry finished his visit to the region earlier this week to advance the
ninemonth negotiating process that ends in April.
watchdog Peace Now said that Friday’s announcement meant that since direct talks
had resumed last year, Israel had unveiled plans for some 5,349 new homes in the
West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Palestinians believe that these
settlements, and all the land beyond the pre-1967 lines, should be part of their
They have, therefore, argued that continued building is a
stumbling bloc to peace and want Israel to halt all such activity.
believes that a final-status agreement for a two-state solution will place most
of the West Bank settlements under Israeli sovereignty.
It has argued
that any settlement freeze predetermines the future borders of a two-state
solution outside the context of negotiations.
Israel said that as a
gesture to the peace process it agreed in July to release 104 Palestinian
prisoners, involved in terror attacks against Israel, in four separate stages
during the ninemonth talks.
Some 78 prisoners have since been freed in
three releases, the last of which took place at the end of December.
the beginning of the ninemonth talks Netanyahu said that Israel would be
building throughout, and has timed announcements of new building to coincide
with the prisoner releases.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said that “on the
one hand, we’re in negotiations and trying to build trust with the Palestinians,
and on the other hand, we are sabotaging it by making building plans, which are
like a mine exploding the peace process.”
According to Gal-On, the
government knows that the US and EU think settlement construction is against
“These construction tenders show that Netanyahu is
giving in to the Right and the settlers in his coalition,” she added.
Friday, the ministry also republished tenders for 532 east Jerusalem homes in
the following neighborhoods: 182 in Pisgat Ze’ev, 294 in Ramot and 56 in Neveh
The ministry said that tenders for these projects had already
been published in past releases.
Khaled Abu Toameh and Lahav Harkov
contributed to this report.