After US criticism, European countries urge Israel to stop settlement expansion

Twelve European countries urged Tel Aviv to reverse the decision to proceed with plans to build 3,000 new settlement units in the West Bank, this comes after Washington – for the first time in years – sharply criticized Israel over its settlements.

A joint statement by the foreign ministers of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden said that these countries oppose settlement expansion throughout the occupied Palestinian territories. “We urge the government of Israel to reverse its decision,” he added.

Settlements in the occupied West Bank (Reuters)

Invitations and obstacles

The European statement called on the two parties to build on the steps taken in the past months, to improve cooperation and reduce tension.

For its part, the British Foreign and Development Office said, in a tweet, that the Minister of Middle East Affairs, James Cleverly, called on the Israeli government to reverse its decisions issued on October 24 and 27, to build settlement units in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The British ministry said the settlements are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace and stability.

Israeli cabinet meetingThe Israeli Prime Minister during a meeting with members of his government team (Reuters)

discussions and decisions

Yesterday, Wednesday, Israel approved the construction of 3,144 new settlement units, in the occupied West Bank, and the Israel Broadcasting Corporation said that the Supreme Council for Planning and Building in the Civil Administration (the executive arm of the Israeli government in the occupied Palestinian territories) made the decision after discussions that lasted for several hours.

This is the first time that the Israeli government has approved the construction of new settlement units since the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, at the beginning of this year.

The current Israeli government, headed by Naftali Bennett, announced last week the publication of tenders to build 1,300 settlement units in the West Bank, which the previous government (headed by Benjamin Netanyahu) had approved for building during the past years.

sharp criticism

This comes after Washington directed yesterday – for the first time in years – sharp criticism of Israel regarding its settlements, stressing that it “strongly” opposes new construction in the occupied West Bank.

Yesterday, the US State Department called on the Israeli government to refrain from unilateral steps, including settlement construction.

And the Israeli Walla news website said today that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had a phone call yesterday with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, during which he protested the settlement decisions.

The Israeli website indicated that the call was “tense.”

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