Israeli plans to add hundreds of homes to settlements in the West Bank were condemned by the Trump administration on Wednesday, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo describing them as “unhelpful.”
“Today’s announcement that Israel plans to construct hundreds of additional settlements on Palestinian land is unhelpful,” Pompeo said in a statement. “It is counterproductive and risks undermining the trust that is so critical to any efforts to resume meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.”
The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to build close to 1,000 apartments in the northern West Bank, a plan that includes expanding the settlements of Beit El and Maale Adumim.
“At the most fundamental level, [the settlements] not only limit our ability to reach a two-state solution, but they create more separation, more barriers, and a set of facts on the ground which makes it ever more difficult to achieve that goal,” Pompeo said.
The announcement came as Pompeo was addressing a U.N. Security Council meeting on Israel-Palestinian relations. Although Israel took issue with Tuesday’s U.N. condemnation of its incursion into the Gaza Strip, Israeli ambassadors to the U.S. and Russia, Danny Danon and Andrei Karlov, addressed Pompeo in his remarks.
The backlash against Netanyahu’s new plans came from a number of countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany, France, and European Union members.
“Allowing 870 settler homes to be built in East Jerusalem would be a devastating blow to the chances of achieving a two-state solution,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement. “It would advance no vision for peace and stability. It would only generate anger and frustration that will last far longer than the construction process itself.”
Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that the United Kingdom was working with the EU and other countries to change the U.N.’s definition of illegal settlements in order to remove the list from U.N. agencies’ websites.
Several European countries, including Spain, Portugal, and Greece, also pledged that they would stop trading with Israel if the illegal settlement expansion continued.
Britain, France, and Spain pledge to review dealings with Israel if settlement build # of 870 flats go ahead https://t.co/sISiCvPQYs pic.twitter.com/eqnnPjIZjt — AFP news agency (@AFP) May 8, 2019
British government officials said that it would not do business with any company that did business with Israeli settlements. However, EU officials said that they were still looking for changes to the U.N.’s definition of the settlements to make trade with Israel harder.
Many in the international community consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegal. But many American lawmakers, including President Donald Trump and his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, believe that Israel has a right to protect its citizens from Palestinian attacks and bring about peace through diplomacy.
With an eye on a long-term peace deal, Trump in December ordered the construction of the so-called “Trump peace plan” between Israel and Palestine. Trump’s plans, however, have been met with stiff opposition from much of the international community.
Read the full story at CNN.
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