Foreign Ministers from France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, have followed the United States in denouncing the planned expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
In a joint statement, the ministers declared:
“we strongly oppose these unilateral actions which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two state solution.
We continue to support a comprehensive, just, and, lasting, peace in the Middle East, which must be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.”
The Norwegian Foreign Minister, Anniken Huitfeldt, also condemned Israel's plans, saying that the Israeli settlement policy on occupied land is contrary to international law and must be stopped.
The Israeli settlement plans have also drawn condemnation from the Arab world. However, Israel's controversial right wing minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, said he wanted to see more Jewish settlements.
I say to Americans and Europeans stop worrying. This is our mission. This is our doctrine; nine settlements are nice, but it's not enough. We want much more.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israeli Minister of National Security
The comments fly in the face of international calls for de escalation of tensions between Israelis and the Palestinians after months of violence in the occupied West Bank and Al Quds.
The international community views the settlements, hundreds of which have been built across the West Bank since Tel Aviv's occupation of the territory in 1967, as illegal under international law and the Geneva Conventions due to their construction on the occupied territories.
The UN Security Council has condemned Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions. Hossein Al Sheikh, a senior Palestinian official, welcomed the joint statement by Western powers condemning Tel Aviv's plan to build more illegal settlements but said action needed to be taken. In a statement on Twitter, he said "we demand that words we turn to deeds".
Hardliners who oppose Palestinian statehood comprise a large part of Israel's new cabinet, which has put settlement construction at the top of its priorities.
Extremist Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said about 10,000 new homes are to be approved. Smotrich added he and his allies were committed to removing completely the restrictions on building in the occupied West Bank.
Today, between 600,000 and 750,000 Israelis live in these sizeable settlements, equivalent to roughly 11% of the total Jewish Israeli population.
The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state. Tel Aviv has openly funded and built settlements for Israeli Jews to live there, offering incentives and subsidized housing.
The statements of Western powers will likely have little effect on the Israeli hardliners. The regime has never been subjected to real sanctions or accountability. The Israelis have never suffered any pressure so they keep doing what they have always been doing.
2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the United Nations started keeping records in 2005.
Over 140 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank last year. Currently we are only halfway through the second month of 2023 and Israel has already killed around 50 Palestinians in the West Bank.
Israel has regularly bombed Gaza, and now, with a right wing cabinet in place, the situation is only expected to get worse.
Israel's far right cabinet has approved the legislation for nine settler outposts to be built in the occupied West Bank.
All settlements are illegal according to international law but who pays attention to international law in this occupied land?