Bibi ignores outrage at latest settlement expansion
Two articles from JPost are followed by one from Al Arabiya
France says settlement building plans calls into question Israel’s commitment to peace; Ashton issues veiled threats
By Herb Keinon, JPost
December 21, 2012
Israel continued to take a pounding overseas on Thursday for announcements of construction activity beyond the Green Line, with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issuing veiled threats, France questioning Israel’s commitment to peace and Quartet envoy Tony Blair issuing a sharp denunciation.
Only the US, which blocked a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel on Wednesday, did not chime in, likely because there was no State Department daily press briefing on Wednesday or Thursday.
At the last State Department briefing on Tuesday, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland ratcheted up the criticism of Israel’s settlement polices, saying the Jewish state was engaged in a “pattern of provocative actions”.
Paris on Thursday adopted that language as its own, with the French Foreign Ministry issuing a statement saying “the unprecedented resurgence in settlement projects is a provocation that further undermines the trust needed to resume negotiations and leads us to question Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution.”
The French statement “strongly condemned” Wednesday’s approval of 2,610 housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, calling the decision “illegal” and saying “it is all the more serious because it amounts to the creation of a new settlement which, once completed, will isolate the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa from the rest of east Jerusalem. It therefore threatens the viability of the two-state solution whereby Jerusalem is destined to become the capital of both Israel and Palestine.”
Ashton joined the fray, expressing dismay over the Givat Hamatos decision, and saying it would “cut the geographic continuity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.”
The same type of language was used earlier this month when the Europeans blasted the announcement of planning for development in E1 between Ma’aleh Adumim and Jerusalem, saying that project would cut the geographic continuity between Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Ashton, hinting broadly at some other sort of possible EU reaction, said that in light of Europe’s “core objective of achieving the two-state solution, the EU will closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly.”
Blair issued a statement saying he agreed fully with the statements expressed by the US State Department and the four EU countries in the UN Security Council: “The problem is not only the building of such settlements itself but also that this is a moment when it is vital to restart a proper negotiation, and all such announcements do is to put new obstacles in the way of progress and undermine the prospects for a negotiated peace.”
An official in the Prime Minister Office responded to the condemnations by repeating Jerusalem’s position that all Israel has done over the past three weeks is approve 3,000 housing units in Jerusalem and the large settlement blocs.
“Everything else is just planning and zoning, and all that in areas that will stay part of Israel in any final-status agreement,” the official said.
France, Britain, Germany, Portugal issue joint statement expressing “extreme concern” over construction plans in E1.
By European Jewish Press/ JPost
December 20, 2012
Quartet Representative Tony Blair on Thursday affirmed his support for recent US and European criticism of Israeli construction plans.
“The problem is not only the building of such settlements itself but also that this is a moment when it is vital to re-start a proper negotiation and all such announcements do is to put new obstacles in the way of progress and undermine the prospects for a negotiated peace leading to a viable Palestinian state living side by side with a safe and secure Israel,” Blair said in a statement.
Blair’s comments followed EU and US condemnation of the Israeli government’s approval of an additional 2610 housing units in the settlement of Givat Hamatos in addition to announcements made at the end of November and Monday’s approval of 1500 units in Ramat Shlomo.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday called the Israeli government’s recent move “extremely troubling.”
“This plan for Givat Hamatos would cut the geographic continuity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I strongly oppose this unprecedented expansion of settlements around Jerusalem,” Ashton said in a statement.
She continued : “The EU has never been clearer than it was on 10 December in voicing its strong opposition to settlement expansion. The EU particularly opposes the implementation of plans which seriously undermine the prospects of a negotiated resolution of the conflict by jeopardizing the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state and of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.”
She said that “in the light of its core objective of achieving the two-state solution,” the EU will closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and “act accordingly.”
“The European Union calls for a bold demonstration of political will and leadership from both sides to break the current impasse and resume negotiations. The parties must engage in direct and substantial negotiations without pre-conditions in order to achieve a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ending all claims,” the statement said.
Ashton’s reaction on the new Israeli construction plans came as all members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in New York, with the exception of the United States, publicly condemned recent Israeli settlement construction plans as “a threat to peace efforts.”
France, Britain, Germany and Portugal issued a joint statement, which was read out after a meeting on the Middle East in the Security Council. It said the countries were “extremely concerned by, and strongly opposed, the plans by Israel to expand settlement construction in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem.”
The same four EU countries issued a similar statement last December at the UN.
This year’s statement, which highlighted plans to develop the area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim known as E1, said that initiative would jeopardize “the possibility of a continuous, sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian state, and of Jerusalem as a future capital of both Israel and Palestine.”
The statement said that “the viability of a two-state solution is threatened by systematic expansion of settlements,” and that “all settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem, must cease immediately.”
It then went on to praise Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for publicly rejecting “the recent inflammatory statement by Hamas leaders that deny Israel’s right to exist.”
Addressing the press after the various condemnatory statements from the countries on the Security Council were read out, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor rejected both the notion that the settlements were the major obstacle to peace and that Abbas had been forceful in distancing himself from Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal’s recent statements calling for Israel’s destruction.
Prosor pointed out that the Security Council decided to focus on building in the “Jewish people’s ancient capital of Jerusalem” in a week that also saw Syrian President Bashar Assad fire Scuds on his own people and drop bombs on a mosque in a Palestinian refugee camp that killed dozens, as well as an explosion that took place in a Hezbollah warehouse 300 meters from a school in a densely populated village in southern Lebanon.
The main obstacle to peace was not the settlements, Prosor said, but rather terrorism, incitement, the Palestinians’ insistence on the “socalled right of return” and their refusal to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
He also said he had difficulty understanding how people could conclude that “the Palestinian state can’t exist if there is contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim,” but had no problem talking about contiguity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, something that would cut Israel in two.
Regarding Abbas’s condemnation of Mashaal’s statement, Prosor said one needed “good, sensitive equipment to hear him condemn something.”
The ambassador clarified that despite a flood of reports, Israel had only granted final approval for 3,000 housing units in Jerusalem and the settlement blocs – a decision made on November 30 following the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN General Assembly.
“Any other announcement that you hear about is part of planning and zoning,” he said, calling it all “a bureaucratic process that can take years.”
In any case, Prosor said, all construction necessitates a decision by the government before it can begin.
As part of that bureaucratic process, the Jerusalem Local Planning and Construction Committee gave final approval on Wednesday to 2,610 apartments in Givat Hamatos, the first completely detached new Jewish neighborhood over the Green Line since the construction of Har Homa in 1997. Givat Hamatos will be located between Talpiot and Beit Safafa.
This stage of the project, Givat Hamatos A, was originally slated to receive final approval last month, but the planning and construction committee meeting occurred on the last day of Operation Pillar of Defense, last month’s round of violence with the Gaza Strip. The item was hastily scratched from the agenda when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived to try to negotiate a cease-fire, due to fears that it would upset the delicate talks.
Herb Keinon and Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.
Palestinians warn: Israel ‘to be held accountable’ for settlements
By Al Arabiya/AFP
December 21, 2012
Israel will be “held accountable” for its settlement building, a senior Palestinian official said on Thursday after Israel pushed forward plans for more than 5,000 new settler homes.
“The settlers and the government of Israel should know they will be held accountable,” presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP shortly after Israel reportedly okayed initial plans for a new settlement city in the southern West Bank.
In the West Bank, Israel has approved plans for the construction of more than 500 homes in the southern West Bank in the first step towards creating a new settlement city, a local settler council said Thursday.
“After years, we are happy to announce that the government of Israel has decided to build a city in Gush Etzion,” David Perel, head of the Gush Eztion regional council, told AFP, saying the defense ministry had approved plans for 523 homes in Gevaot.
Perel said the council had presented plans for a city of at least 6,000 homes in the year 2000, but until now, they had never been approved.
“This is a huge achievement,” he said.
According to Hagit Ofran from the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, there are currently only about a dozen caravans at the site, but she said the new city could be home to as many as 25,000 people.
“This is not just another settlement: 6,000 units could house about 25,000 people. Maybe it’s not large as cities go, but in terms of settlements, it’s huge,” she told AFP.
She said the approval meant the initial plans could now be promoted by the Civil Administration’s higher planning council, which operates within the defense ministry.
“This sends the message that Israel is not considering the two-state solution. It means it will be much harder to divide the land (in any final peace deal) with another city there,” she said.
The new plans emerged during a week in which Israel has advanced the building of thousands of new settlement homes in east Jerusalem, sparking Palestinian and international condemnation.
Israeli pushed forward with her settlement plans despite U.N., Europe and Russian condemnation.
The United Nations and U.N. Security Council powers on Wednesday condemned Israel’s heightened settler construction in the Palestinian territories as a threat to flagging peace efforts.
U.S. ambassador Susan Rice, however, did not join their public attack on Israel, but slammed the “provocative” act of the United States’ major ally during closed U.N. Security Council consultations.