JERUSALEM (JTA) — European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton joined the United States and the United Nations in condemning a Jerusalem committee’s approval of new housing in Gilo.
Ashton said Wednesday that she was "deeply disappointed" in the initial approval Monday by the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee of the construction of 942 housing units in Gilo, a residential district in mostly Arab eastern Jerusalem. Other committees already had approved the plan. The units would be built on privately owned land as well as land owned by the Jewish National Fund, Haaretz reported.
"These plans may further damage an already fragile political environment," Ashton said. "I reiterate that the EU considers that settlement activities in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, undermine trust between the parties and constitute an obstacle to peace."
The planning and building committee’s backing came the day before Israeli President Shimon Peres met with President Obama in Washington to discuss, among other issues, ways to restart stalled peace talks. The Obama administration has objected to Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.
The White House on Tuesday also criticized the construction approval.
“The United States is deeply concerned by continuing Israeli actions with respect to settlement construction,” White House National Security Staff spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
"Not only are continued Israeli settlements illegitimate, Israel’s actions run counter to efforts to resume direct negotiations,” he said. “As we have said, we believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties should mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both sides for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world.
The United Nations also condemned the approval.
"We reiterate that Israeli settlement activity anywhere in occupied territory, including in east Jerusalem, is illegal and contrary to the road map," Richard Miron, spokesman for the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, said in a statement Tuesday. "We call on the Israeli government to halt further planning for new settlement units, which undermines efforts to bring about resumed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and prejudices final status discussions."