Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem draws EU rebuke

Israel has announced the construction of some 700 apartments in East Jerusalem just a month after the Jewish state proclaimed a freeze on the building of new settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, drawing moderate criticism from the European Union.

On Monday (28 December), Israel's Construction and Housing Ministry opened tenders for the construction of 692 new flats in the neighbourhoods of Har Homa, Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaakov - Arab land absorbed by Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War.

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  • East Jerusalem: Construction of some 700 new flats have been given a green light, despite an announced freeze in settlement building (Photo: laika slips the lead)

"Settlements on occupied land are illegal under international law," the Swedish EU presidency said in a statement.

"The Presidency of the European Union urges Israel to reconsider these plans as it prevents the creation of an atmosphere conducive to resuming negotiations on a two-state solution."

In November, defence minister Ehud Barak issued a freeze order, aiming to jump-start peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, while at the same time permitting the construction of 28 new public buildings in the occupied territories. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu subsequently declared that settlement construction would resume at the end of a 10-month period.

Palestinian representatives also condemned Monday's move.

Nabil Abu Rudainah, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement: "Continuing the policy of settlements expansion is deliberate destruction of US and international efforts to achieve progress in the peace process."

"This policy affirms that the Israeli side is not serious in reaching a just and comprehensive permanent peace agreement based on the two-state solution."

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the opportunity to argue that now is the time to restart peace negotiations between the two sides.

"The time for excuses is over. Now is the time for action," he said ahead of a meeting in Egypt with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak scheduled for Friday.

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