The European Union (EU) and Palestinians have condemned a plan by the Israel government to construct hundreds of homes in an area claimed by Palestinians.
The municipal government of Jerusalem has approved the building of 942 new homes in the Jewish settlement of Gilo, just outside Jerusalem, on land captured during the Six-Day war in 1967.
Gilo is located near the Palestinian village of Beit Jala and was targeted for attacks by militants during the second Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in 2000.
An additional 900 homes were already approved for construction at this location in November 2009.
“As a reminder, Jerusalem was united more than 40 years ago, and since then there has been no change in construction policy,” said a spokeswoman for Jerusalem municipality. “The municipality is continuing to build for Arabs and Jews according to the Master Plan.”
Palestinians assert that east Jerusalem will be the capital of their future state and adamantly oppose Israeli control over the area.
The Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) strongly criticized the move.
The Israelis have renewed escalations [that take advantage of] the weakness of the Middle East Quartet [United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia] and the entire international community, which is incapable of putting an end to the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people, the PLO stated .
[Dispute over] land jeopardizes the two-state formula and puts it in real danger. The international community has failed to question Israel or punish it for its daily acts of aggression against the Palestinians, the statement said. It went on to add that the expansion of colonies would surely explode the entire situation and drag the region into yet another violent unpredictable struggle.
The PLO further warned: This is yet another test for the US' seriousness in sponsoring Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the two-state formula.”
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said he will appeal to the international community to pressure Israel to respect international law and halt construction.
I am deeply disappointed by the approval of 942 new housing units in the Israeli settlement of Gilo, east Jerusalem, said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
These plans may further damage an already fragile political environment.”
According to reports, nearly half a million Jews live in settlements on occupied lands. Israel rejects the notion that these settlements are illegal by international laws.
The US, which has repeatedly asked Israel to stop building new homes on occupied territories in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, finds that peace talks between Israel and Palestinians are deadlocked over this issue.
The EU’s Ashton added: I reiterate that the EU considers that settlement activities in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, undermine trust between the parties and constitute an obstacle to peace. The actions taken by the Israeli government contravene repeated and urgent calls by the international community… and run counter to achieving a peaceful solution that will preserve Israel's security and realize the Palestinians' right to statehood. If there is to be genuine peace, a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.
The US State Department also condemned the settlement plans
We're deeply concerned about the announcement of the approval for these units, said a spokesman.
We believe that through good-faith direct negotiations the parties should mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties. Ultimately, a lack of resolution to this conflict, harms Israel, harms the Palestinians and harms the interests of the United States and the international community.
US President Barack Obama is meeting with Israel president Shimon Peres, but the subject of the settlements was not brought up during a subsequent conference with reporters.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to visit Washington DC next month.