LONDON - The British government on Wednesday condemned the tenders recently issued by Israel's Housing Ministry for the construction of new housing units across the Green Line in Jerusalem and in West Bank settlements.
In the statement, Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, describes the new tenders as "provocative." Burt said that Britain "has been consistently clear that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and by altering the situation on the ground are making the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly hard to realise. It is deeply disappointing that the Government of Israel continues to ignore the appeals of the UK and other friends of Israel.”
The Housing and Construction Ministry issued on Tuesday tenders for the construction of 1,285 housing units, 1,213 in the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze'ev and Ramot, located across the 1967 Green Line, and an additional 72 in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
The tenders are a part of the government's decision to continue housing construction, both throughout Jerusalem and in West Bank settlement blocs. While Israel considers East Jerusalem, annexed immediately following the Six Day War in 1967, as part of its sovereign territory, the international community does not recognize any part of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line as a part of Israel.
The British condemnation of new settlement expansions has become a routine response, though diplomats both in Jerusalem and London have recently acknowledged that the British government over the past year has been quicker and more consistent at issuing such statements. Moreover, they said, the wording of the condemnations has also become sterner.
However, at the same time, the relationship between the two countries has remained close over a wide range of issues, including trade, culture, defense and intelligence matters, with Britain leading the strong European Union sanctions effort against Iran.
Following the fourth annual U.K.-Israel Strategic Dialog, held last week in London, head of Britain’s diplomatic service, Simon Fraser, said that the two “strategic partners” agreed on “the two-state solution and the security of Israel,” but added that there were disagreements “on issues like settlements and restriction on Gaza.”
The Dialog, led by high-level diplomatic officials from both countries, focused mainly on Iran’s nuclear aspirations and the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry would not comment on the British condemnation.
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