UK 'seriously concerned' by Israeli expansion of W. Bank homes

By: AFP      Published: 08:17 PM, 18 Jan, 2021
UK 'seriously concerned' by Israeli expansion of W. Bank homes

Britain on Monday expressed serious concern over Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, saying the construction of 780 new homes could threaten future peace negotiations.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday directed authorities to approve construction of the new settler homes in the occupied territory, Israeli civil society group Peace Now said.

"The UK is seriously concerned by the Government of Israel's decision to approve the construction of 780 new settlement units across the Occupied Palestinian Territories," a Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said.

The inclusion of areas "deep within the West Bank" within the construction plans "could threaten future peace negotiations," the spokesperson said.

"Settlements are illegal under international law and risk undermining the physical viability of the two state solution. 

"We call for the construction of these in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank to cease immediately."

The UK and much of the international community have decried ongoing construction of settlement homes in areas claimed by Palestinians for a potential future state.

However, in 2019 the administration of outgoing President Donald Trump broke with decades of US foreign policy declaring that Washington no longer considered settlements construction broke international law.

Britain's position closely follows that of the European Union, which said Israel's actions "further undermines the prospects of a viable two-state solution".

In 2018, the Trump administration also broke with allies like Britain and the EU when it decided to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The approval of new settlement units comes days before Trump's departure from the White House. During his four years in office, the US president was viewed as a particularly close Netanyahu ally.

Peace Now has said the expansion of construction puts Israel on a "collision course" with the incoming administration of Joe Biden. 

Biden, who will be sworn on Wednesday, has indicated that his administration will restore Washington's pre-Trump policy of opposing settlement expansion.