The European Union called on Israel Friday to reverse its decision to advance a plan to build settler homes in a controversial area in East Jerusalem, as they may pose an obstacle to the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he would move forward with the plan to build 3,500 housing units in area E-1, a 12-kilometer area west of the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, where previous plans to build homes for settlers have prompted sharp international criticism.
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Netanyahu's announcement came a day after the Israel Lands Authority issued tenders for the construction of 1,077 housing units in the Jewish neighborhood of Givat Hamatos in southern Jerusalem, a plan which had been frozen for years by the Prime Minister’s Office, initially because of pressure from the Obama administration.
Once the building plans are released, objections can be filed. If the plans pass this phase, the project can move on to the final planning stages.
In an official statement released by European Union Foreign Affairs chief Josep Borrell, the EU urged both Israel and the Palestinian Authority "to refrain from any unilateral action that undermines the viability of the two-state solution.
“The EU reiterates its call on Israel to halt settlement construction, to suspend the publication of tenders and to refrain from any measures aimed at the advancement of such construction plans. Settlements are illegal under international law,” the EU statement reads.
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Building settlements in both areas will lead to a lack of geographical and demographic contiguity between land under the control of the PA in the West Bank. Construction in Givat Hamatos would surround East Jerusalem with Jewish neighborhoods and cut it off from the West Bank, while the construction in E1 would separate the northern and southern sections of the West Bank.
According to U.S. President Donald Trump's Mideast peace plan, these two areas are planned to be part of Israel. Due to the ramifications of construction there, most of the international community and the PA harshly oppose it.
The plans for E1 have existed since the time of the Yitzhak Rabin government in the 1990s. The master plan and detailed planning, however, have been held up for political reasons since 2005.