Ankara slams Israel's Netanyahu over illegal settlement announcement

Ankara slams Israel's Netanyahu over illegal settlement announcement

Ankara slams Israels Netanyahu over illegal settlement announcement

This picture taken on Feb. 20, 2020, shows a view of the Israeli settlement of Har Homa in the Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. (AFP Photo)

Turkey on Feb. 21 slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after he announced that he was reviving a plan for the construction of 3,000 new settler homes near East Jerusalem, a project effectively frozen after international opposition.

"We reiterate our strong rejection of this occupier mentality which ignores international law and the United Nations resolutions," Turkish foreign ministry said in a written statement.

"It is observed that the Israeli Government continues its habit of violating the rights of the people of Palestine and trampling international law before every election," it added.

The statement also said that Israel's decision on proceeding with the illegal settlements are "encouraged" by the "so-called" Mideast peace plan, unveiled by U.S. President Donald Trump on Jan. 28.

The peace supports the Israeli position on nearly all of the most contentious issues in the decades-old conflict. Where previous U.S. presidents tried to cajole Israel and the Palestinians into compromising on thorny issues like the borders of a future Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of refugees, Trump's Mideast team largely adopted the Israeli position.

As a result, the Palestinians have angrily rejected the plan, and the international community appears unlikely to rally around it.

"Palestinian territories belong to the people of Palestine. The occupier mindset shall never change this reality," the ministry's statement underlined.

Netanyahu's announcement, during an election campaign in which he has sought to shore up support from pro-settlement voters, was condemned by the Palestinians as another blow to their hopes for an independent state.

He has pledged to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and the area's Jordan Valley as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan presented by Trump.

Opponents of the project, in the Givat Hamatos area adjacent to the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa, said it would sever parts of East Jerusalem from the nearby Palestinian town of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

Construction of 2,610 housing units for Jews in Givat Hamatos was approved by a Jerusalem planning committee in 2014. The Israeli government effectively put the project on hold after the United States and the European Union criticized the plan.

Visiting an area overlooking the Israeli settlement of Har Homa on the outskirts of Jerusalem on Feb. 20, Netanyahu said in a video he posted on social media: "Today I approved the construction in Givat Hamatos" of 3,000 homes for Jews, of which 1,000 would be marketed soon.

He said some 1,000 housing units would be built for Arabs in Beit Safafa. No construction date was announced for either area.

In a separate project, Netanyahu said another 2,200 housing units would be built in Har Homa, located like Givat Hamatos in an area of the West Bank that Israel annexed to Jerusalem after the area's capture in the 1967 Middle East war.

"Netanyahu's insistence on building thousands of settlement units is the systematic destruction of the two-state solution and the implementation of the Trump plan," Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said after the Israeli leader's announcement.

Palestinians and much of the world view Israel's settlements in areas seized in the 1967 conflict as illegal under international law, but the United States and Israel dispute this.