The United States, the United Kingdom and a number of other European countries were on Thursday sharply critical of new settlement expansion plans by Israel as negotiators from both sides met in Washington for a fourth round of U.S.-brokered talks aimed at achieving a peace agreement.
Mr. Trump on Monday approved a one-year extension of an order allowing construction to continue on more than $10 billion in American-backed loans to Israel. In a move certain to cause an outcry from Europe, the orders were to have expired on Dec. 29.
“Now that we have received notice of the Trump administration’s short-term continuation of the U.S. commitment to direct financing of the Israel settlements and thus E1 settlement expansion, Israel should move swiftly to obtain international backing for its actions by changing its government at the next general election,” said the British Foreign Office.
The French foreign ministry called the move “provocative,” the German foreign ministry also condemned the move, and the European Union commission called for the Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations “so that we can take back steps to advance the peace process.”
“US efforts to give new impetus to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians cannot fail,” commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said. “Yet a compromise must be reached. This is the moment to define the extent of Israel’s obligations and those of the Palestinians in reaching a just, viable and realistic solution to the conflict.”
The EU commission took up the cause of the Palestinians, echoing calls from the administration of former President Barack Obama that Israel be required to divest from settler activities.
“We are against all settlement activities, especially illegal outposts and ‘outposts,’ where even one Israeli lives alongside one Palestinian, as well as building of infrastructure in the occupied territories, especially the settlements,” Juncker said.
The latest dispute between Israel and the West comes only a few weeks after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made a controversial trip to the Holy Land. Netanyahu distanced himself from Mr. Pence after U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman declared last month that he believed Jerusalem to be the “eternal and undivided” capital of Israel. Israel considers the city, where the remains of the biblical Jewish Temples remain, to be its indivisible and eternal capital.
Relations between the U.S. and its partners in the international community over the settlement issue have been strained, especially as Israel views its expansion as necessary to prevent the Palestinians from successfully incorporating the occupied West Bank into a future Palestinian state.
Even though Israel continues to construct settlements, according to a recent Brookings Institution analysis, Palestinians “are increasing their leverage with respect to negotiation.”
The settlement campaign, which includes at least 352 settlement units and another 5,548 units slated for future construction since Trump’s election, is mainly intended to give the Israeli government the backing it needs to maintain its hold on the West Bank.
Read the full article at The Guardian.
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