EU fumes as Israel pushes back at Biden with over 2,000 settler homes

Azari: "No such thing as a settlement in east Jerusalem"

A European Union flag flies outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 19, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)
A European Union flag flies outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 19, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)
On the eve of US President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday, Israel announced tenders for 2,572 settler units and Jewish homes in east Jerusalem as European officials met with the Foreign Ministry in protest.
News of the tenders was reported late Tuesday night by the left-wing NGO Peace Now, which said that 2,112 of the homes were for seven settlements and another 460 were slated for the east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev.
"Our out-of-touch government leadership continues to press on with its mad scramble to promote as much settlement activity as possible until the last minutes before the change of the administration in Washington," Peace Now said.
The tenders issued by the Construction and Housing Ministry and the Lands Authority, according to Peace Now, mark one of the last bureaucratic phases before ground is broken for new homes. The projects listed were previously approved and reported on.
Israel pushed back at European branding of Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem as settlements, stating that such language was "unfounded."
The Foreign Ministry spoke out forcibly on the matter Tuesday night after representatives of 17 European nations, including ambassadors, met with the ministry's Deputy Director-General for Europe Anna Azari on Tuesday to discuss their concerns about "settlements," both in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
According to a tweet from the EU Embassy in Tel Aviv, the officials "reiterated their grave concern about announcements regarding new settlement units in the occupied West Bank [and] called to permanently halt the tendering procedure for Givat Hamatos."
Azari retorted that "Givat Hamatos is part of the city of Jerusalem."
To claim that construction in Israel's capital is akin to settlement activity is unfounded, she said.
Such European focus on criticizing Israel for Jewish construction does not contribute to resolving the conflict, she added.
Azari asked the Europeans to encourage the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
She also spoke to them about Europe's failure to respond to Iran's statement that it would enrich uranium up to 20%.
The European delegation met with the Foreign Ministry in the aftermath of Sunday's meeting of the Civil Administration's Higher Planning Council, where it advanced 792 homes in West Bank settlements.
Separately on Monday, the Lands Authority published tenders for building in the Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze'ev and Har Homa.
According to the left-wing NGO Ir Amim, the Pisgat Ze'ev project included a tender for 210 homes within the built up area of the neighborhood and another tender for an old age home. Tenders were published separately for two commercial buildings and two public buildings.
THE INTERNATIONAL community is concerned that settlement building will harm any possible attempts by US-President elect Joe Biden to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations after he takes office on Wednesday.
A number of countries and entities have condemned the advancement of settlement plans.
"The expansion of settlements in the West Bank violates international law and risks irreparably undermining the viability of a just, sustainable two-state solution," Italy's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
"We therefore urge Israel to refrain from any unilateral action" that would undermine "ongoing efforts to restore confidence between the parties and jeopardize the resumption of direct negotiations," it stated.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday that "settlement expansion increases the risk of confrontation, further undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and further erodes the possibility of ending the occupation and establishing a contiguous and viable sovereign Palestinian state, based on the pre-1967 lines."
He urged Israel "to halt and reverse such decisions, which are a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace."
Germany said that such activity "makes a negotiated two-state solution and an end to the occupation more difficult."
It called on Israel to halt settlement activity, including the project to construct a new Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem called Givat Hamatos, which is located at a strategic juncture on the city's edge near the Palestinian West Bank city of Bethlehem.
Germany said it was concerned by Israeli steps to unilaterally deepen its hold on east Jerusalem, even though Israel formally applied sovereignty to areas of Jerusalem over the pre-1967 lines in 1980.
Berlin stated that "amendments to the lines of 4 June 1967, including those with regard to Jerusalem, can only be agreed by both parties through negotiations."
It offered to help Israelis and Palestinians relaunch talks particularly through the Munich Group, which includes Germany, France, Egypt and Jordan.
"A negotiated two-state solution remains the best solution to the Middle East conflict, both with a view to guaranteeing Israel’s security and safeguarding the rights of the Palestinians," it said.
Great Britain, Ireland, Egypt, the European Union and the Palestinian Authority have also condemned Israeli settlement activity.