Israel defends construction plans amid EU, UN pressure

Click photo to download. Caption: The EU's Catherine Ashton. Credit: Harald Dettenborn. Credit:

( Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday defended his government’s approval of 2,600 new housing units in the Givat Hamatos neighborhood in southern Jerusalem, while the European Union and United Nations continued to pressure the Jewish state over that issue.

“We are going to build in Jerusalem for all its residents, this is something that has been done by all previous governments and this is something that my government will continue to do,” Netanyahu said.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton in a statement called the Givat Hamatos plans, in addition to Monday’s approval of 1,500 new units in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in the northern part of Jerusalem beyond the Green Line, “extremely troubling.”

“I strongly oppose this unprecedented expansion of settlements around Jerusalem,” Ashton said.

Ashton said the Givat Hamatos plans would cut the geographic continuity between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Sam Westrop, director of the London-based Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy, told that Ashton “wrongly” made that claim about Bethlehem, but at the same time has “not said a word about plans to build better housing for Arabs in Beit Safafa.”

“It seems she is not so much against new Israeli houses, but rather Jewish ones,” Westrop wrote in an email.

The EU had already condemned Israel’s construction plans in the E1 area between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim on Dec. 10.

Fourteen of the 15 UN Security Council members—all except the U.S.—slammed Israel’s construction plans as well. Britain, France, Germany and Portugal—the four Security Council members from the EU—in a statement called on Israel to rescind the plans.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon, meanwhile, at a year-end news conference described the Middle East peace process as “in a deep freeze.” Regarding Israeli construction, he asked the Jewish state “to refrain from continuing on this dangerous path, which will undermine the prospects of a resumption of dialogue and a peaceful future for Palestinians and Israelis alike—let us get the peace process back on track before it is too late.” Ban did not make any demands of the Palestinians. 

Posted on December 20, 2012 .