Backlash from western nations over Israeli settlement expansion plan

Opposition voiced over 10,000 planned new homes for Jewish settlers near Palestinian territories in the West Bank

The Israeli settlement of Gevat Arnon, near Nablus in the southern occupied West Bank, as seen from the Palestinian village of Aqraba. AFP
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Ministers from the UK, France, Germany, Italy and the US said they “strongly oppose” Israeli settlement expansion after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to build almost 10,000 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.

The foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy, the UK Foreign Secretary and US Secretary of State said they were “deeply troubled by the Israeli government’s announcement that it is advancing nearly 10,000 settlement units and intends to begin a process to normalise nine outposts that were previously deemed illegal under Israeli law”.

“We strongly oppose these unilateral actions which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution,” they said in a joint statement.

The five nations said they backed a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, which must be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties”.

“We continue to closely monitor developments on the ground which impact the viability of the two-state solution and stability in the region at large,” the statement said.

Mr Netanyahu's office said a committee would meet this week to “approve the construction of new homes in existing settlements”.

The move will also legalise nine outposts that were built without authorisation. The government said the decision was in response to a recent spate of terrorist attacks in East Jerusalem that killed three Israelis.

Speaking to The National, Hanna Swaid, a politician for the Arab-Israeli party Hadash, described the decision as “hush money that Netanyahu is paying to extreme-right parties in his government”.

Settlements expert Dror Etkes said it was an attempt “to give the Israeli public a quick sense of satisfaction that something is being done”.

At least 70,000 demonstrators stood outside Israel's parliament on Monday in protest over legal reforms that critics say will have a fundamental impact on the nation's democracy. Mr Netanyahu is leading the most right-wing government in Israel's history.

More than 475,000 Israelis reside in settlements in the West Bank, where 2.8 million Palestinians live.

Updated: February 14, 2023, 6:05 PM