JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel’s plans to advance the construction of thousands of settlements in the occupied West Bank drew European punishment on Friday as approvals for construction reached a record high in 2020.
European countries warned that the building continues the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further threatens the viability of a two-state solution. The warning came after Israel on Thursday pushed plans for more than 3,000 homes to be set up in the West Bank.
The Palestinians claim the entire West Bank, captured by Israel in the 1967 East War, as part of a future independent state. They say the growing population of residents, approaching 500,000 in the West Bank, has made it increasingly difficult to achieve their dream of independence.
“We are deeply concerned by the decision taken by the Israeli authorities to advance more than 4,900 settlement units in the occupied West Bank,” said a joint statement issued by Foreign Ministry spokesmen from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
“It is also an unproductive move in light of the positive developments in the normalization agreements reached between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain,” he added, referring to recent historic agreements between Israel and the two Gulf Arab states.
Ayman al-Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, called for international pressure on Israel to stop building new settlements. On Thursday, the top European Union diplomat also condemned Israel’s latest decision.
“Solutions are illegal under international law. “As it is constantly said, the EU will not recognize any change in the borders before 1967, including with regard to Jerusalem, except those agreed upon by the parties,” said bloc foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.
Recent Israeli approvals are part of a construction boom that has gained steam during Donald Trump’s presidency. It also comes months after Israel promised to await plans to annex parts of the West Bank in exchange for a US-brokered normalization deal.
The approvals raised the number of settlement homes that would advance this year to more than 12,150, according to Peace Now, a settlement monitoring group. Blow away the highest number of approvals since Trump took office in early 2017 and the highest since Peace Now began registering figures in 2012.
Also Friday, Palestinians clashed with Israeli troops and settlers in the West Bank village of Burqa, east of the city of Ramallah, as they tried to reach their olive groves near a post of Jewish settlers and harvest olives. Harvest time is often a hot spot between parties.
Israeli troops fired tear gas and stun grenades in an attempt to disperse the crowd. The military said in a statement that dozens of Palestinians threw stones at the troops, which the army said were there in coordination with farmers.
Later, both Jewish settlers and Palestinian farmers battled fires in olive groves caused by Israeli police tear gas canisters.
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