Foreign Minister Støre protests against Israel’s settlement expansion in East Jerusalem
On Tuesday, Israel announced plans to build 1600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. The decision was announced at a critical time, as the Israelis and the Palestinians are about to start new peace talks.
Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre commented: “Norway deeply deplores Israel’s expansion of its settlement in East Jerusalem. The peace process is in a critical phase, and Israel’s decision is jeopardising the process.”
The announcement on Tuesday is one of a series of incidents that have been undermining relations between Israel and the Palestinians recently. On Monday this week, Israel announced plans to build 112 new housing units in the West Bank. This decision was criticised for being in conflict with Israel’s undertaking to suspend further settlement.
Israel’s recent decision to add Abraham’s tomb in Hebron and Rachel’s tomb in Bethlehem to its national heritage list was met with anger and riots on the part of the Palestinians and condemnation on the part of the international community. Both shrines are situated in the West Bank, and are holy for Jews, Muslims and Christians.
“The entire international community regards the expansion of the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as illegal under international law,” said Mr Støre. “Norway protests against Israel’s settlement expansion and its decision regarding the cultural heritage sites in the West Bank. The most important thing now is that Israel changes its policy before a two-state solution becomes impossible.
“Norway urges the Quartet (the UN, the US, the EU and Russia), which will meet on 19 March, to protest and put pressure on Israel to stop building illegal settlements.”