Norway, Japan Join Calls on Israel to Reverse Plan to Take West Bank Land

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The foreign ministers of Israel and Norway, Avigdor Lieberman and Borg Brende, at the scene of a rocket attack in Ashkelon on July 16, 2014.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Norway and Japan added voice to the international calls on Israel to reverse a decision to take four square kilometers (1.5 square miles) of West Bank land for a new residential development.

"The expropriation of land makes the work to find a lasting two-state solution for Israel and Palestine more difficult, and I strongly urge the Israeli authorities to reverse this decision," the Norway Post on Wednesday quoted Foreign Minister Borge Brende as saying.

The minister said the move violates international law, the paper reported.

Japan called the move contradictory to peace efforts and urged Israel to refrain from unilateral decisions.

"This announcement by the Israeli government clearly contradicts the ongoing efforts by the international community toward ceasefire agreement over Gaza as well as realizing a two-state solution," Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Kuni Sato said in a statement. "Japan strongly calls upon Israel to refrain from any unilateral act that changes the current status of East Jerusalem as well as the West Bank," Sato said.

On Sunday, Israel said it would expropriate the 1,000 acres of land in the Etzion bloc near Bethlehem. Two days later, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman affirmed the move, saying "the official policy of the government of Israel is first and foremost to focus on the settlement blocs, which would clearly remain under Israeli sovereignty in any [future] settlement."

The U.S., the U.K., United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the European Union, France and Egypt have condemned the decision as well. 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry early on Wednesday spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sharply protested the decision to appropriate 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres) of land belonging to Palestinian villages in Gush Etzion and declare them state lands.

Peace Now, which monitors settlements, said this was the largest seizure of West Bank land in 30 years.

The United States expressed anger on Tuesday at the decision by the Israeli government to appropriate the land. Since the decision was announced on Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has conducted several conversations with senior Israeli officials to express the administration’s displeasure. A senior U.S. official said Washington is also angry that “Israel didn’t update us in advance and surprised us with this decision.”

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