• The Har Homa settlement overlooking Bethlehem is to see another 500 homes added (Photo: hoyasmeg)

EU countries confront Israel on latest land-grab

21.12.11 @ 10:53

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - The four EU countries on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have used unusually strong words against Israel's latest expansion of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.

France, Germany, Portugal and the UK said in a joint statement published on the British UN embassy's website on Tuesday (20 December) they are "dismayed by these wholly negative developments" which "send a devastating message" to the peace process.

"The viability of the Palestinian state that we want to see and the two-state solution that is essential for Israel's long-term security are threatened by the systematic and deliberate expansion of settlements," they noted

They added that recent arson attacks by right-wing Jewish settlers on Palestinian mosques, such as Nebi Akasha and Burqa, are "deliberately provocative" and "designed to aggravate tensions."

Brazil, India, South Africa, Russia and Arab countries' UN envoys voiced similar complaints.

Israel at the weekend published a tender for 680 new Jewish homes to be built in Palestinian areas in Jerusalem and another 348 in the West Bank.

Its UN spokeswoman Karean Peretz said the UNSC should keep quiet on Israel and talk about Iran and Syria instead. She dubbed the anti-settlement statements "a badge of shame for the international community."

A US spokesman added that the UNSC risks "hardening" Israeli and Palestinian divisions by getting involved in peace talks.

EU heads of mission in Ramallah have year after year criticised Israeli housing policies in Jerusalem as designed to fence off the holy city from any future two-state agreement.

Deputy heads of mission in Tel Aviv earlier this month added that Israel is also trampling on the rights of Arab Israeli citizens inside the "Jewish state" proper.

The diplomatic fire-fight comes amid Palestine's bid to upgrade its UN status to a "non-member state" like the Vatican in order to protect its borders.

Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and Spain in November already backed Palestine's succesful application to join the UN's Paris-based cultural heritage office, Unesco.

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