Turkey slams Israel over its decision to expand illegal settlements

Turkey slams Israel over its decision to expand illegal settlements

Turkey slams Israel over its decision to expand illegal settlements

This Sept. 9, 2019 photo, shows a view of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Jan. 8 criticized Israel over its decision to expand illegal settlements by constructing nearly 2,000 new houses in “occupied territories.”

“Israel’s approval of the construction of nearly 2,000 new houses in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is the latest example of Israel’s unlawful, reckless approach,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Israel, which made a habit to disregard the sensitivities of the international community on the issue of Palestine, continues to impound the rights of the Palestinian people with its illegitimate practices,” it added.

The illegal settlements are the “biggest” obstacles to a two-state solution, according to the statement.

The ministry also urged the expansion of illegal settlements to be halted.

In the meantime, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Jan. 8 that Washington’s backing for Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank will advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, angering Palestinian leaders who seek the territory for a state.

In a reversal of four decades of U.S. policy, Pompeo in November announced that the United States no longer viewed Israel’s settlements on West Bank land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war as “inconsistent with international law.”

Speaking by video link at a Jerusalem policy forum dubbed “The Pompeo Doctrine,” Pompeo, in a pre-recorded statement, said the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump returned to a “balanced and sober” approach to Middle East peace by changing its position.

“It’s important that we speak the truth when the facts lead us to it. And we are recognizing that these settlements don’t inherently violate international law,” Pompeo said.

Israeli authorities advanced plans to build nearly 2,000 new homes in West Bank settlements, an anti-settlement watchdog group said Jan. 6.

Peace Now said nearly 800 housing units received the final approvals needed for construction to begin. It said initial approvals were given for an additional 1,150 homes. Settlement projects require several rounds of approvals.

According to Peace Now, the projects include retroactive legalization of two small outposts that were built without authorization.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war, as parts of a future independent state.

The Palestinians, and most of the international community, consider Israeli settlements in the two areas to be illegal.

Israel considers the West Bank to be disputed territory and claims all of Jerusalem, including the eastern sector, as its capital.

In a break from its Republican and Democratic predecessors, the Trump administration said in November that settlements are not necessarily illegal under international law.

According to official data compiled by Peace Now, settlement planning and construction have spiked since President Donald Trump took office.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague announced last month that she believes there is a basis for investigating Israel’s settlement policies in the West Bank, and that they could constitute a war crime.

The prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has asked the court to determine whether she has jurisdiction before opening a formal investigation. Israel has argued that the West Bank is disputed territory whose fate should be resolved in negotiations and Bensouda has no jurisdiction.