The European Union Tuesday (24 January) warned that Israel’s announcements that it will build thousands of new settler homes in occupied Palestinian territory “further seriously undermine” prospects for a two-state solution.
Israel said it had approved 2,500 news homes in the occupied West Bank days after it gave the go-ahead for 566 new units in east Jerusalem in a major expansion following the election of US President Donald Trump.
The twin announcements “further seriously undermine the prospects for a viable two-state solution”, the EU’s foreign policy arm said in a statement.
Settlements in both the West Bank and east Jerusalem are viewed as illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians want for their own state.
“It is regrettable that Israel is proceeding with this policy, despite the continuous serious international concerns and objections, which have been constantly raised at all levels,” the external action service’s spokesperson said.
“Continued settlement expansion… goes directly against long-standing EU policy and the recommendations of the quartet report,” it said.
The EU is part of the quartet supporting diplomatic efforts for Palestinian-Israeli peace, along with the United States, the United Nations and Russia.
“A negotiated two-state solution is the only way to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties and to achieve enduring peace,” the EU statement said.
Products made in Israeli settlements must be clearly labelled in Europe, following a decision adopted by EU foreign ministers in November 2015.
The lands Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war – including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights – are not part of the internationally recognised borders of Israel, according to the European Union.
As such, goods from there cannot be labelled “Made in Israel” and should be labelled as coming from settlements, which the EU considers illegal under international law.
Following the publication of the guidelines, Israel has suspended contact with EU bodies involved in peace efforts with Palestinians, though the government says bilateral ties with nearly all EU countries are strong.