The European Union on Thursday reiterated its opposition to Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied West Bank after Israeli authorities advanced plans for nearly 2,200 settlement homes there.
“The European Union’s position on Israeli settlement construction and related activities is clear and remains unchanged: All settlement activity is illegal under international law and it undermines the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace,” EU spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy Maja Kocijancic said a statement.
The approvals are the first of their kind since snap elections were called earlier this week.
On Wednesday, a settlement watchdog, Peace Now, said the plans were at various stages in the approval process, with 1,159 housing units having received the final approvals before building permits can be issued, and 1,032 at an earlier stage.
The settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law as they are built on land that Palestinians see as part of their future independent state.
Read more: Israeli settlers sue Airbnb for delisting West Bank homes
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat slammed the Israeli move as “the theft of Palestinian land and resources for the illegal expansion of settlements as part of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s campaign.”
Underlining the importance of the settlement issue in right-wing Israeli politics, Netanyahu met with several settler leaders in Jerusalem on Wednesday as campaigning for the snap polls gets underway. At the meeting, the prime minister warned that if he lost, it would “pose a clear danger to the settlement movement.”
More than 600,000 Israelis live in more than 200 settlements both in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. Some settlements have taken on the dimensions of large towns.
On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, future first prime minister of Israel, declares the state’s independence, outlining the Jewish story: “The people kept faith with (the land) throughout their dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.” It was the birth of an internationally recognized Jewish homeland.
While the controversial idea of a God-given land for Jews has biblical roots, the Holocaust was a close, powerful backdrop for the significance of Israel’s founding. Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews across Europe, and those who survived the concentration camps endured expulsion and forced labor. The above photo shows survivors of the Auschwitz camp following liberation.
That is the word that Palestinians and their supporters use to mark Israel’s independence. About 700,000 Arabs living in Palestine at the time fled as waves of Jewish immigrants arrived to settle in the new Jewish state. The birth of Israel was the start of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which remains unresolved 70 years later despite numerous attempts.
These land collectives, known as kibbutzim in the plural, were established across Israel following independence. Many were run by secular or socialist Jews in an effort to realize their vision of society.
Tensions with its Arab neighbors erupted in the Six-Day War in June 1967. With a surprise attack, Israel is able to swiftly defeat Egypt, Jordan and Syria, bringing the Arab-populated areas of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights under Israeli control. Victory leads to occupation — and more tension and conflict.
Israel’s settlement policy worsens the conflict with Palestinians. Due to development and expansion of Jewish areas on occupied Palestinian land, the Palestinian Authority accuses Israel of making a future Palestinian state untenable. Israel has largely ignored the international community’s criticism of its settlement policy, arguing new construction is either legal or necessary for security.
In winter 1987, Palestinians begin mass protests of Israel’s ongoing occupation. Unrest spreads from Gaza to East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The uprising eventually wound down and led to the 1993 Oslo Accords — the first face-to-face agreement between the government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the representative body of the Palestinian people.
With former US President Bill Clinton as a mediator, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (left) and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat hold peace talks. The result, the Oslo I Accord, is each side’s recognition of the other. The agreement leads many to hope that an end to the Israel-Palestine conflict is not far off, but peace initiatives suffer a major setback when Rabin is assassinated two years later.
A right-wing Jewish fanatic shoots and kills Rabin on November 4, 1995, while he is leaving a peace rally in Tel Aviv. Rabin’s assassination throws the spotlight on Israel’s internal social strife. The divide is growing between centrist and extremist, secular and religious. The photo shows Israel’s then-acting prime minister, Shimon Peres, next to the empty chair of his murdered colleague.
Nazi Germany’s mass murder of Jews weighs on German-Israeli relations to this day. In February 2000, Germany’s then-President Johannes Rau addresses the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in German. It is a tremendous emotional challenge for both sides, especially for Holocaust survivors and their descendants, but also a step towards closer relations after unforgettable crimes.
In 2002, amid the violence and terror of the Second Intifada, Israel starts building a 107-kilometer-long (67-mile-long) barrier of barbed wire, concrete wall and guard towers between itself and Palestinian areas of the West Bank. It suppresses the violence but does not solve the larger political conflict. The wall grows in length over the years and is projected to reach around 700 kilometers.
Germany’s current foreign minister, Heiko Maas, steps decisively into an ever closer German-Israeli relationship. His first trip abroad as the country’s top diplomat is to Israel in March 2018. At the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, he lays a wreath in memory of Holocaust victims.
tj/rt (AFP, dpa)