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EU, U.S. Condemn State Land Designation

European Union and State Department issue condemnations over Israel's decision to declare land in Gush Etzion as state land.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 9/3/2014, 12:13 AM

Hitchhiking in Gush Etzion
Hitchhiking in Gush Etzion
Flash 90

Israel was again condemned on Tuesday over its decision to declare 4,000 dunams of land in Judea, mostly in Gush Etzion, as state land, with the European Union (EU) and the U.S. State Department being the latest ones to issue condemnations.

"We condemn the new appropriation of land in the West Bank, relating to plans for further settlement expansion, announced by the Israeli government on Sunday,” said the EU in a statement.

“Settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to render the two-state solution impossible. The EU reiterates that it will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem,  other than those agreed by the parties,” the statement continued.

“At this delicate moment, any action that might undermine stability and the prospect of constructive negotiations following the ceasefire in Gaza should be avoided.

“We call on the Israeli authorities to reverse this decision and to engage in good faith towards a lasting peace based on a two-state solution," concluded the EU statement.

In Washington, meanwhile, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki condemned the decision as well and urged Israel to reverse it.

"We are deeply concerned about the declaration of a large area as 'state land' to be used for expanded settlement building," she said in a statement quoted by Reuters, echoing comments by an unnamed U.S. official on Sunday.

"We call on the Government of Israel to reverse this decision," she added.

"We are also very concerned by reports that new settlement and East Jerusalem construction or planning announcements may be issued at any time, including for the sensitive area of (Givat HaMatos) in East Jerusalem," Psaki said.

"These steps are contrary to Israel's stated goal of negotiating a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians, and it would send a very troubling message if they proceed," she said.

Sunday’s decision by Israel, which opens the possibility of further construction in the region, is one of Israel's responses to the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel, and Gilad Sha'ar. The three were kidnapped in Gush Etzion and their bodies were found several weeks later in a field near Hevron.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas issued a condemnation of Israel’s decision, with his spokesman Nabil Abu-Rudeineh saying that the decision would “bring about a further deterioration” in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

On Monday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the decision as well, saying he is "alarmed" by it.