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Ireland condemns 'clearly illegal' Israeli settlements as Israel pushes on before Trump leaves office

The Trump administration has broken with decades of bipartisan US practice by not opposing Jewish settlement activity in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Protesters accosted EU envoys who visited the site yesterday.
Protesters accosted EU envoys who visited the site yesterday.
Image: Nir Alon/PA Wire

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN Affairs Simon Coveney has described new planned Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem as “clearly illegal” and called the Israeli government to pull back on its plans. 

Coveney’s comments come as the Israel Land Authority issued construction tenders in Givat Hamatos, a currently uninhabited area of east Jerusalem next to the mainly Palestinian neighbourhood of Beit Safafa.

Israel seized east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. It later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank are also considered illegal by most foreign governments and the United Nations.

In February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the approval of 3,000 homes in the area and Israel is now pushing ahead with the plans. He said  2,000 homes would be allocated for Jews and 1,000 for Arab residents of Beit Safafa.

It’s believed that construction of the settlements is now being fast-tracked before US President Donald Trump leaves office.

The Trump administration has broken with decades of bipartisan US practice by not opposing Jewish settlement activity in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. 

President-elect Joe Biden has said his administration will restore US opposition illegal settlements. 

In a statement today, Coveney said that officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs met with the Israeli Ambassador to “underline Ireland’s serious concerns” over the expansion of settlements in the “strategically sensitive area”.

“This announcement by Israel undermines the viability and territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian State and the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution in line with the internationally agreed parameters with Jerusalem as the future capital of two states,” the minister said.

Settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory is clearly illegal under international law. This action erodes trust and confidence between the parties, which is critical for the resumption of meaningful negotiations. We are again at a very sensitive time, when maximum restraint must be shown by all sides. I call upon the Israeli government to reverse this decision and to halt all settlement construction.

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Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, said the Givat Hamatos tenders amounted to an attempt by Israel “to kill the internationally-supported two state solution”.

Yesterday, EU diplomats were taunted by right-wing Israeli protesters as they visited the site of the proposed settlement.  

Several European Union envoys who had travelled to Givat Hamatos were called “anti-Semites” by shouting protesters. “EU shame on you,” protesters shouted as diplomats tried to speak.

The east Jerusalem tenders follow the approval of 96 new east Jerusalem settler homes in the Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood last week.

- With reporting by ©️ – AFP 2020

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Rónán Duffy

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