Germany, Portugal, France, & Britain issue joint statement expressing “extreme concern” over Israeli construction plans in Ma’ale Adumim, E1
Israeli envoy Prosor: UNSC focusing on Israeli housing while Assad bombs his own people.
The US prevented a UN Security Council condemnation of Israel for a spate of settlement construction decisions on Wednesday, leading the other 14 countries on the 15-member council to issue separate condemnations of their own instead.
France, Britain, Germany and Portugal issued a joint statement read out after a meeting on the Middle East in the Security Council saying thy were “extremely concerned by, and strongly opposed, the plans by Israel to expand settlement construction in the West Bank, including in east Jerusalem.”
The same countries issued a similar statement last December at the UN.
This year’s statement, which highlighted plans to develop E1 between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, said those plans would jeopardize “the possibility of a continuous, sovereign independent and viable Palestinian state, and of Jerusalem as a future capital of both Israel and Palestine.”
The statement, said that “the viability of a two state solution is threatened by systematic expansion of settlements,” and that “all settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem, must cease immediately.”
The statement then went on to praise Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for publicly rejecting “the recent inflammatory statement by Hamas leaders that deny Israel’s right to exits.”
Israel’s envoy to the UN Ron Prosor, addressing the press after the various condemnatory statements from the different countries on the Security Council were read out, rejected both the notion that the settlements were the major obstacle to peace, and that Abbas was forceful in distancing himself from Hamas’ leader Khaled Mashaal’s recent statements calling for Israel’s destruction.
Prosor pointed out that the Security Council decided to focus on building in the “Jewish people’s ancient capital of Jerusalem” in the same week that Syrian President Bashar Assad fired Scuds on his own people, Syria dropped bombs on a mosque in a Palestinian refugee camp, killing dozens, and when an explosion took place in a Hezbollah warehouse 300 meters form a school in a densely populated village in southern Lebanon.
The main obstacle to peace is not the settlements, Prosor said, but rather terrorism, incitement, and the Palestinian insistence on the “so-called right of return” and its refusal to recognize Israel as the nation sate of the Jewish people.
He also said he had difficulty understanding how people conclude that “the Palestinian state can’t exist if there is contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim,” but have no problem talking about contiguity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, something that would cut Israel into two.
Regarding Abbas’ condemnation of Mashaal’s statement, Prosor said one needed “good, sensitive equipment to hear him condemn something.”
Prosor clarified that despite a flood of reports, Israel has only granted final approval for 3,000 units in Jerusalem and the settlement blocks – a decision made November 30 after the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN General Assembly.
“Any other announcement that you hear about is part of planning and zoning,” he said, calling it all “a bureaucratic process that can take years.”
In any case, he said, all construction necessitates a decision by the Israeli government before it can begin.
As part of that bureaucratic process, the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee gave final approval Wednesday to 2,610 apartments in Givat Hamatos, in the first completely detached new Jewish neighborhood over the Green Line since the construction of Har Homa in 1997.
The new neighborhood of Givat Hamatos will be located between Talpiot and Beit Safafa.
This stage of the project, Givat HaMatos A, was originally slated to receive final approval last month, but the Local Planning and Construction Committee meeting occurred on the last day of Operation Pillar of Defense. The item was hastily scratched from the agenda when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived to try to negotiate a cease-fire, due to fears it would upset the delicate negotiations.
Givat Hamatos, which is planned in four separate stages, will eventually have 4,000 units in the full plan. These include around 800 units for Arab homes built inside Beit Safafa. Left-wing activists oppose Givat Hamatos because it will cut off Beit Safafa from Bethlehem.
Wednesday’s approval occurred in the midst of four days of marathon meetings in the municipal and Interior Ministry to discuss approvals for 6,500 apartments in east Jerusalem.
On Monday, the 1,500 apartment units in Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo received final approval from the Interior Ministry. Thursday, the Interior Ministry is expected to give final approval to the Slopes of Gilo South, with approximately 1,000 apartment units.
In addition, the Ministry of Construction and Housing announced Wednesday it intended to publish tenders for 1,048 new homes in West Bank settlements.
This includes: Beitar Illit 398; Karnei Shomron 108; Efrat 167; Emmanuel 102; Givat Ze’ev 167; and Adam 106.
In addition the ministry also announced the publication of tenders for 168 new homes in the east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa.
After the EU statement was read out in New York on behalf of the four EU countries on the council, the representative of India read out a similar statement on behalf of eight Non-Aligned Movement members on the Security Council. This was followed by a statement on behalf of India, South Africa and Brazil which said that not only must settlement construction be frozen, but “settlements must be dismantled and the occupation must end” not as “a concession to be made in the course of negotiations,” but rather as “an obligation under various [Security Council] resolutions and international law.”
Despite the censure, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel would continue – as it has always done – building in the capital.
Standing on the terrace of the King David Hotel with the ambassadors of 11 Asian and Pacific countries, overlooking the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, Netanyahu said before the Security Council discussion that Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years, that and he will continue to build there. .
“I do want to use the opportunity that we’re here in this fantastic panorama to point out a simple fact: The walls of Jerusalem that you see behind us represent the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years.,” he said. “All Israeli governments have built in Jerusalem. We’re not going to change that.”
Netanyahu said building in the country’s capital was “natural,” and asked the envoys to “imagine that you would limit construction in your own capital. It doesn’t make sense.” The Prime Minister said Israel was committed to its capital and “to peace, and we’re going to build in Jerusalem for all its residents. This is something that has been done by all previous governments; this is something that my government will continue to do.”
While his comments came before the Security Council’s monthly briefing on the Middle East, they did follow an unusually sharp rebuke from US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Noland who on Tuesday called the construction plans “provocative.”
“With regard to the larger settlement issue and statements recently and actions on the ground, we are deeply disappointed that Israel insists on continuing this pattern of provocative action,” Noland said. “These repeated announcements and plans of new construction run counter to the cause of peace. Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution, yet these actions only put that goal further at risk.”
She said her “strong statement” reflected Washington’s concern about “what’s going on.”
Despite Nuland’s tough language, she made clear that Washington did not think it would be “helpful at this point” to put the condemnation of settlement construction into a Security Council resolution.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=296634