European Security Council Members to Condemn Israel's Settlement Construction

France, Britain, Germany and Portugal to issue joint statement against Israel's recently announced plan to build 1,500 homes in East Jerusalem neighborhood Ramat Shlomo.

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

The European Union members of the UN Security Council – Britain, France, Germany and Portugal – are expected to issue a joint statement on Tuesday condemning the Israeli government's decision to construct homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem, located beyond the Green Line.

A sub-committee of the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee on Monday gave preliminary approval to a plan to build 1,500 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo.The announcement came just two weeks after Israel declared its intention to construct 3,000 new residential units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, raising the ire of the international community.

The European countries are expected to express their concern in the statement over the viability of the two-state solution, in the wake of Israel's construction plans. On Monday, the U.S. state department spokeswoman said that the U.S. opposed Israel's settlement expansion and has consistently conveyed to Jerusalem its objections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the issue on Tuesday while on a visit to the northern ciry of Acre, saying all Zionist parties should support construction in Jerusalem. "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Israel and we will continue to build in it," he said. "The unity of Jerusalem is something that reflects a wide national agreement." Netanyahu's statement came after he was heavily criticized on Monday by the Labor Party, Yesh Atid and Meretz.

An official in the Prime Minister's Office clarified Monday that the decision to build in Ramar Shlomo did not represent new construction plans, but was rather a new stage in an existing project.

"These are not new homes," the official said. "The intention to build them was publicized years ago, and what happened today was just a discussion on objections to the plan. This is just another planning stage, not the beginning of construction."

Tzipi Livni's Hatnua party on Tuesday called the construction plans for Ramat Shlomo detrimental to lsrael's relationship with the international community. "It damages our relations with world and does not strengthen Israel," she said during a meeting with students at Ben-Gurion University. Rather, she added, "it is meant to keep Netanyahu's right-wing partners in the coalition."

"Israel should invest in the settlement blocks that will remain a part of Israel in any future agreement, and not throw away money on sawing houses and moving them from hill to hill or paving a road leading to place that will not be a part of Israel in any future agreement," Livni said.

The plan for the expansion of Ramat Shlomo was approved in March 2010, during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. The approval sparked an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between Washington and Jerusalem, as a result of which the plan, along with additional construction projects in East Jerusalem, was suspended.

Israel then expedited the process as a retaliatory measure in the wake of the United Nations decision last month to accept Palestine as a non-member observer state, and announced its plans for building the additional 3,000 homes in various settlements. In the wake of the UN vote, Israel also planned to advance a long-frozen project for the E-1 area, which covers an area that links the city of Jerusalem with the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee postponed on Tuesday the first stage of the construction of hundreds of homes in Givat Hamatos, a Jewish neighborhood in the south of the city. It too is located on the other side of the Green Line.

The committee will reconvene on Wednesday to discuss another construction project in the same area, which – if approved – would inaugurate Givat Hamatos as a new Jewish neighborhood beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, the committee also approved a plan to construct hundreds of homes for Arab residents of Beit Safafa in Jerusalem.

A settlement in East Jerusalem. Credit: Emil Salman

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