‘Strongly against’: European powers condemn Israeli settlements | News about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Ministers from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy are joining the United States in saying that the planned expansion in the occupied West Bank will increase tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

The foreign ministers of five Western powers say they are “deeply disturbed” by the far-right Israeli government’s decision to continue building thousands of settlement units in the occupied West Bank.

Ministers from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy on Tuesday followed the United States in condemning the planned expansion.

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

“We continue to support a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, which must be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.”

Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt condemned Israel’s plans on Tuesday.

“Israel’s settlement policy on occupied land is contrary to international law and must be stopped,” Huitfeldt told Norwegian news agency NTB.

Israel’s settlement plans have also drawn condemnation from Israel’s Arab neighbors, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Israel’s hardline Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said on Tuesday that he wants to see more Jewish settlements. “The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel,” he said in a video message.

‘Disagreements are allowed’

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet unanimously approved the legalization of nine outlying settlements and said he would soon approve additional construction in existing settlements.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said around 10,000 new homes would be approved.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that he was “deeply troubled” by Israel’s decision, but gave no indication that the US would take action against Israel.

Smotrich responded to Blinken’s rebuke by saying that his government had “made our position clear to the Americans” and that “misunderstandings are allowed, even among friends.”

Ultranationalists opposed to Palestinian statehood make up a large part of the new Israeli government, which has made settlement building a top priority.

Smotrich, a religious ultra-nationalist settler, said he and his allies were “committed to the complete removal of building restrictions” in the occupied West Bank.

A longtime settler leader, Smotrich was promised power over the defense body responsible for building settlements in the West Bank as part of his coalition deal with Netanyahu.

He said that once he gets those powers, he will act to “normalize” life for more than 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Ben-Gvir added: “This is our mission. This is our doctrine. Nine settlements are nice, but still not enough. We want much more.”

Israel conquered the West Bank along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War. The Palestinians are looking for these territories for a future independent state.

The majority of the international community considers Israeli settlements illegal and obstacles to peace. About 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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