A girl holds an Israeli flag on a hilltop near the Maaleh Adumim settlement.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Helene Le Gal, the French ambassador to Israel, strongly condemned the Settlements Bill on Wednesday, saying the move further acted to raise international concerns over Israel's commitment to the peace process.
The Knesset on Monday night voted in favor of the bill, thus retroactively legalizing 4,000 settler homes that were built on private, Palestinian-owned land situated in Area C in a move that spurred widespread controversy.
Area C is under Israeli military and civilian control, but is outside of sovereign Israel.
“The land we are talking about is private land in the West Bank,” Le Gal said in an interview with Army Radio, as she noted that the territory was not within the Knesset’s purview and that it had no legislative powers there.
The French ambassador went on to explain that France had condemned the legislation because Paris sees the law as "taking a path which is not leading to peace."
She then called out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for saying publicly several times that he was in favor of a two-state solution, charging that he has made decisions that created a roadblock to peace.
Le Gal also made note of the fact that the settler homes that were legalized under the new law are built on private Palestinian land and if Israelis want to make claims to that land, then there needs to be discussion with the Palestinians.
The ambassador also said that while she was aware of the fact that Palestinians are expected to receive compensation for the land, they "did not agree to this. They weren't even asked about this. There is no discussions now between the Israelis and the Palestinians -- this is just a unilateral decision."
Israelis react to controversial law legalizing settlements
Stressing her concern that Israel was making deliberate moves that world powers have denounced repeatedly in the past, Le Gal added that "this is why it's worrying for the international community."
The French ambassador declined to discuss whether or not Israel should expect another resolution from the UN Security Council, but she did say that "the international community is wondering if they should trust Israel when Israel is saying that [it] is ready for discussion with her neighbors, the Palestinians, and to reach an agreement on the two-state solution."
Le Gal finished the interview by reiterating that the main issue at hand was not the settlements but rather the lack of dialogue between the two parties. "If there is an agreement, of course, that these settlement blocs are within Israel, then of course there is no problem. But there is no discussion. It's only Israel who decides."
Multiple condemnations from the international community were quickly sounded following the Knesset's approval of the Settlements Law. On Tuesday, the EU released a statement saying that the Knesset's decision was crossing into dangerous territory and that the law was "entrenched in a one-state reality."
The UN, the UK and Germany have all released statements in the same vein, criticizing Israel for passing the law.
French President Francois Hollande met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on Tuesday, telling the Palestinian leader that the passing of the Settlements Law is "contrary to the two-state solution."
On Wednesday the Germany Foreign Ministry joined in the condemnation the law and called on Israel to re-affirm its commitment to a two-state solution.
“Many people in Germany who stand firmly by Israel’s side in a spirit of heartfelt solidarity are disappointed by this turn of events,” the German Foreign Ministry said.
“The confidence we had in the Israeli Government’s commitment to the two-state solution has been profoundly shaken,” it added.
“Only a negotiated two-state solution can bring durable peace and is in Israel’s interest. It remains a fundamental tenet of our Middle East policy,” the German Foreign Ministry said.
“We hope and expect that the Israeli Government will renew its commitment to a negotiated two-state solution and underpin this with practical steps, as called for by the Middle East Quartet,” it said.
This kind of statement is needed, the ministry said, because of the “disconcerting comments” made “by individual members of the Israeli Government, who have openly called for the annexation of parts of the West Bank and are preparing bills to this end.”
A “question of credibility” has now been raised, it added.