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EU warns Israel against announcing new settlement construction plans
By JPOST.COM STAFF, HERB KEINON, KHALED ABU TOAMEH
27/12/2013
European governments will respond "harshly" if Israel makes announcement following 3rd Palestinian prisoner release, EU diplomat tells Channel 10.
 
The European Union will strongly object to any new announcements of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, a senior EU diplomat told Channel 10 on Thursday.

The unnamed diplomat said "there will be very little understanding from the European governments" if Israel plans to announce further construction beyond the Green Line next week following the release of a third group of Palestinian security prisoners.

"Israel needs expect a harsh reaction from the European governments if it intends to go in that direction," the official said.

The ministerial committee tasked with selecting the list of Palestinian security prisoners to be released was scheduled to meet on Saturday night to decide on those to be freed late Monday night, in the third out of four such releases.

Soon after the prisoner release, Israel is expected to announce plans for construction beyond the Green Line.

Channel 2 reported that the announcement will include 600 new housing units in Jerusalem and 800 in the settlement blocs. In addition, the reports said, planning processes will be set in motion for another 1,000 units.

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat responded to Israel’s intentions to announce construction plans by labeling settlement construction a “war crime.” Erekat said if Israel goes ahead with the plans, the PA leadership should apply for membership in 63 international organizations, including the International Criminal Court.

Erekat said those who fear the ICC should “stop perpetrating war crimes, including settlement construction, which is a war crime.”

Referring to the Israeli plans, Erekat said, “We strongly condemn this and consider it damaging for the peace process.”

One government official responded by saying that going to an international body would be a direct PA contravention of the agreement reached with Israel and the US, which paved the way in July to the current round of negotiations. On the contrary, he said, Israel made no commitment to freeze settlement construction, and was “scrupulously” upholding the agreements.

The US administration has made clear that while they are opposed to settlement construction, these types of announcements do not take anyone by surprise or contravene the July agreement to restart the talks.

Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On characterized the announcement of building now as “giving the American administration the finger.”

“There does not need to be a connection between building in the territories and releasing prisoners,” she said. “As long as there is no agreement with the Palestinians on the future of the settlements, expanding settlements is adding insult to injury.”

Likud MK Moshe Feiglin also said that settlement construction and prisoner releases should not be connected.

“Construction in Judea and Samaria in exchange for terrorists perverts the value of settlement,” he wrote on Twitter.

Once the ministerial committee draws up the names of the prisoners – all convicted terrorists who carried out their activities before the 1993 Oslo Accords – the families of the victims will have 48 hours to petition against their release to the Supreme Court.

It is highly unlikely the court will intervene.

The Supreme Court rejected a petition on Thursday brought by five members of the Schijveschuurder family – whose parents and three siblings were among the 15 people killed in the 2001 suicide attack at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem – to reconsider releasing another batch of prisoners.

“With all due understanding to the pain of the petitioners, their petition does not raise any legal ground for our intervention,” the court ruled. “The claims have been raised and ruled on in the past regarding the same government decision.”

Under the agreement drawn up in July, and confirmed by the government, Israel is to release a total of 104 prisoners, in four different groups, during the nine months of negotiations.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
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