EU Protests to Netanyahu Over Planned Wave of Settlement Construction

Follows PM’s announcement of 1,400 housing tenders to coincide with upcoming prisoner release.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The European Union’s ambassador to Israel lodged a protest Sunday over the decision to the build 1,400 new housing units in West Bank settlements, which was announced as Israel prepares to release a third group of Palestinian prisoners Monday night.

It is unclear if Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen’s protest to the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry will be also be accompanied by EU action against Israel.

An Israeli official and a European diplomat said Faaborg-Andersen called Eran Lerman, Israel’s National Security Council official in charge of foreign policy, and expressed “deep concern” over the plan for a new wave of construction. He approached Foreign Ministry officials with the same concern. At the same time, the British ambassador in Israel, Matthew Gould, conveyed an identical message in talks with senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials.

A week ago, Haaretz disclosed that the ambassadors from Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Italy had met with the acting director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, and demanded that Israel not announce new construction in West Bank settlements to follow the release of the Palestinian prisoners. The ambassadors warned that if the peace process collapsed in the wake of a new announcement of settlement construction, the EU would place the blame on Israel.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to approve the publication of public tenders for the construction of 600 housing units in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, which is beyond the 1967 border, and another 800 units in the West Bank. The prime minister issued the announcement to coincide with the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners who have been in Israeli jails since before the Oslo Accords, as he did in the two prior rounds of the four-phase prisoner release agreement.

A construction site in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Beitar Ilit, near Bethlehem, December 26, 2013.Credit: Reuters