Netanyahu announces plans for 3,000 new settler homes near East Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he was reviving a plan for the construction of 3,000 new settler homes near East Jerusalem, a project effectively frozen after international opposition.

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 U.S. President Donald Trump last month. Palestinians have rejected Trump’s blueprint as biased towards Israel.

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 Thursday, 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.


(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Palestinians protest, Israel braces ahead of Trump plan

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Stephen Farrell

GAZA CITY/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated against U.S. President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan on Tuesday hours before its scheduled release at a ceremony in Washington.

Israeli troops meanwhile reinforced positions near a flashpoint site between the Palestinian city of Ramallah and the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

While Israeli leaders have welcomed Trump’s long-delayed plan, Palestinian leaders rejected it even before its official release. They say his administration is biased toward Israel.

The Palestinians fear Trump’s blueprint will dash their hopes for an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem – areas Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War – by permitting Israel to annex large chunks of occupied territory including blocs of Jewish settlements.

Diab Al-Louh, the Palestinians’ ambassador to Egypt, said on Tuesday they had requested an urgent meeting of the Arab League council at ministerial level – which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would attend.


In Gaza City on Tuesday, protesters waved Palestinian flags and held aloft posters of Abbas. “Trump is a fool, Palestine is not for sale!” an activist shouted through a loudspeaker.

Others chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” as they burned tires and posters of Trump. More protests were expected after Trump announces details of his plan later in the day.

An Israeli military spokesman said troops had been sent to reinforce the West Bank’s Jordan Valley – an area which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to partially annex.

Husam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian mission to Britain, told Reuters in London that Trump’s peace plan was merely “political theater”.

“It is not a peace deal. It is the ‘bantustan-isation’ of the people of Palestine and the land of Palestine. We will be turned into bantustans,” he said, referring to the nominally independent black enclaves in apartheid-era South Africa.

“Jan. 28, 2020 will mark the official legal stamp of approval of the United States for Israel to implement a full-fledged apartheid system,” he said.

Israel vehemently rejects any comparison to the former South African regime.


Trump will deliver joint remarks with Netanyahu at the White House later on Tuesday to outline his plan, the result of three years work by his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

He met with Netanyahu and the Israeli opposition leader Benny Gantz ahead of the announcement. Both were briefed on its contents.

Netanyahu said it was “the opportunity of a century and we’re not going to pass it by.” Gantz called it a “significant and historic milestone.”

A Netanyahu spokesman said he would fly to Moscow on Wednesday to brief Russian President Vladimir Putin on the proposals.

But Israeli-Palestinian talks broke down in 2014, and it is far from clear that the Trump plan will resuscitate them.

Palestinian and Arab sources who were briefed on a draft of the plan fear that it will seek to bribe Palestinians into accepting Israeli occupation, in what could be a prelude to Israel annexing about half of the West Bank.

Further obstacles include the continued expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied land and the rise to power in Gaza of the Islamist movement Hamas, which is formally committed to Israel’s destruction.

Palestinian leaders say they were not invited to Washington, and that no plan can work without them. An Abbas spokesman urged any Arab or Muslim officials invited to the ceremony to boycott it.

Addressing their fears, Trump said on Monday: “They probably won’t want it initially…but I think in the end they will. It’s very good for them. In fact it’s overly good to them.”

But on Monday Abbas said he would not agree to any deal that did not secure a two-state solution. That formula, the basis for many years of frustrated international peace efforts, envisages Israel co-existing with a Palestinian state.

Palestinians have refused to deal with the Trump administration in protest at such pro-Israeli policies as its moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, whose eastern half the Palestinians seek for a future capital.

The Trump administration in November reversed decades of U.S. policy when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington no longer regarded the settlements on West Bank land as a breach of international law. Palestinians and most countries view the settlements as illegal, which Israel disputes.


Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said both Trump and Netanyahu were looking to change the subject from their own domestic troubles.

“The problem is it doesn’t feel like this is the beginning of an important initiative,” Alterman said.

Trump was impeached in the House of Representatives last month and is on trial in the Senate on abuse of power charges.

On Tuesday Netanyahu was formally indicted in court on corruption charges, after he withdrew his bid for parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

Both men deny any wrongdoing.

(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Dan Williams and Steven Holland in Washington; Editing by Angus Macswan and Mark Heinrich)

EU ambassador denounces Israel’s West Bank demolitions policy

FILE PHOTO: Dwellings belongings to Bedouin are seen in al-Khan al-Ahmar village near the West Bank city of Jericho February 23, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Awad/File Photo

By Luke Baker

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The European Union has expressed frustration with Israel over its demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, with the EU ambassador taking the unusual step of reading out a joint statement denouncing the practice.

At a meeting last week with the Israeli foreign ministry’s newly appointed director-general, the ambassador delivered a stern diplomatic message, saying Israel was failing in its international legal obligations and needed to change policy.

The issue came to a head after Israel issued demolition orders last month against 42 homes in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, where EU member states Belgium and Italy have funded a school and helped build structures for the local population of around 150.

“The practice of enforcement measures such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions and confiscations of homes and humanitarian assets (including EU-funded) and the obstruction of delivery of humanitarian assistance are contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law,” ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen said, with envoys from all EU member states present.

“We therefore call on Israel, as the occupying power, to meet its obligations vis-à-vis the Palestinian population…, completely stop these demolitions and confiscations and allow full access of humanitarian assistance.”

Faaborg-Andersen’s intervention was first reported by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry declined to comment on the substance of the statement, known in diplomatic parlance as a demarche, but said it was delivered at a “get to know you” meeting with the ministry’s director-general.

The clampdown against Khan al-Ahmar, located in a sensitive area of the West Bank that Israel has earmarked for settlement expansion, is the latest in a series of demolitions that have been roundly condemned by the EU and the United Nations.

Israel says the demolitions are necessary because the building was carried out without a permit in an area of the West Bank, known as Area C, where Israel retains full control. Area C makes up 60 percent of the West Bank, which the Palestinians want for their own state together with Gaza and East Jerusalem.

The EU says Israel rarely issues permits in Area C and is concerned that by blocking Palestinian development there, and demolishing structures that are built, it is actively undermining the viability of any future Palestinian state.

Figures from the United Nations office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs show that Israel has sharply stepped up demolitions in Area C over the past year.

While between 450 and 560 Palestinian structures were demolished each year from 2012-2015, the number jumped to 876 in 2016, and in January this year alone there were 121 demolitions. More than 1,200 people were displaced last year.

To underscore concern about the threat to Khan al-Ahmar, delegations from EU embassies have been visiting the site regularly. Officials hope public diplomacy might help secure an Israeli Supreme Court injunction against the demolitions.

That worked with an earlier demolition order targeting the Palestinian village of Susiya, in the southern West Bank.

“We’re not giving up,” said one EU diplomat, while acknowledging that it was an uphill battle to stop the demolitions. “We have to be realistic.”

(Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Stephen Powell)

U.N. chief alarmed by Israel’s approval of new settlement

U.N. Secretary general Antonio Guterres attends the 34th session of the Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, February 27, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is disappointed and alarmed by Israel’s decision to build a new settlement on land the Palestinians seek for a state and has condemned the move, his spokesman said on Friday.

Israel’s security cabinet on Thursday approved the building of the first new settlement in the occupied West Bank in two decades, even as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu negotiates with Washington on a possible curb of settlement activity.

“He condemns all unilateral actions that, like the present one, threaten peace and undermine the two-state solution,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

The White House appeared more accommodating to Israel’s plans for the new settlement, intended for some 40 families evicted from Amona, a West Bank outpost razed in February because it was built on private Palestinian land.

A White House official noted Netanyahu had made a commitment to the Amona settlers before U.S. President Donald Trump and the Israeli leader agreed to work on limiting settlement activity.

Trump, who had been widely seen in Israel as sympathetic toward settlements, appeared to surprise Netanyahu during a White House visit last month, when he urged him to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

The two then agreed that their aides would try to work out a compromise on how much Israel can build and where.

“The Israeli government has made clear that Israel’s intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes President Trump’s concerns into consideration,” a written statement from the official said.

Following Thursday’s announcement, Israeli officials said Netanyahu’s security cabinet decided out of respect for Trump’s peace efforts to limit construction in settlements to existing, built-up areas and not to expand beyond present boundaries.

The White House was informed in advance about the planned announcement of a new settlement as well as the Israeli policy shift and raised no objections, a person close to the matter said, signaling possible coordination between the two governments.

U.S. and Israeli officials completed a round of talks on the settlements last week without agreement, saying the discussions were ongoing, and the two sides have yet to announce any final understanding on the issue.

Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, this week wrapped up a second trip to the region aimed at reviving peace talks that collapsed in 2014.

Palestinians want the West Bank and East Jerusalem for their own state, along with the Gaza Strip.

Most countries view Israeli settlement activity as illegal and an obstacle to peace. Israel disagrees, citing biblical and historical ties to the land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as well as security concerns.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution in December that demanded a halt to settlement building, after the Obama administration decided to abstain from the vote instead of vetoing the moving.

Sweden’s U.N. Ambassador Olof Skoog, a member of the Security Council, said on Friday that the 15-member Security Council should respond to the latest announcement by Israel on settlements.

“The urgency of the situation and the deterioration on the ground might call for some sort of Security Council action, although we know that finding unity on this is not easy,” he told reporters.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Israel’s Netanyahu repeats promise to build new West Bank settlement

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday he would honor his commitment to build a new settlement in the occupied West Bank, the first in two decades.

The Israeli leader made the remarks hours before meeting with Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy. Netanyahu said he hoped an agreement could be reached with Washington on future Israeli settlements on land Palestinians want for a state.

“To the settlers of Amona, I repeat, I gave you a commitment to build a new settlement and I will honor my commitment,” Netanyahu said in public remarks at the start of a cabinet meeting.

The Amona settlement, comprising some 40 homes, was built in 1995 without government authorization. It was razed last month after the Israeli supreme court ruled the homes must be removed because they were built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Netanyahu is under pressure from his far-right coalition partners to follow through on the promise to Amona’s residents. However, at a meeting in Washington, Trump asked him to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

“We are in talks with the White House and our intention is to reach an agreed policy for building in settlements which is agreeable to us, not only to the Americans,” Netanyahu said.

A new settlement would be the first built in the West Bank since 1999. Some 385,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank which is also home to 2.8 million Palestinians. Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since 2014 and settlements are one of the most heated issues. Palestinians want the West Bank and East Jerusalem for their own state, along with the Gaza Strip.

Most countries consider Israeli settlements, built on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war, to be illegal. Israel disagrees, citing historical and political links to the land, as well as security interests.

In a rare meeting for a U.S. envoy, settler leaders said they met with Greenblatt on Thursday. On his first visit to the Middle East as Trump’s envoy, Greenblatt also met with Jordanian King Abdullah in Amman and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His meeting with Netanyahu will be their second this week.

Abbas told the Qatari newspaper Al-Watan in an interview that Greenblatt did not make any proposals and had come to listen and report back to Trump.

“When we meet the American president there will be clear answers to the things he has heard from us and it should be enough for him to get a clear view … and propose suitable solutions,” Abbas was quoted as saying.

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell, writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Larry King)

Israel removes settlers from homes on private Palestinian land

A pro-settlement activist climbs onto a rooftop of a house to resist evacuation of some houses in the settlement of Ofra in the occupied West Bank, during an operation by Israeli forces to evict the houses. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

By Eli Berzlon

OFRA, West Bank (Reuters) – Israeli police began removing settlers and hundreds of supporters on Tuesday from nine houses built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

Police carried some of the settlers and protesters out of the red-roofed structures in the settlement of Ofra, while others walked out, escorted by officers.

Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the demolition of nine buildings in the settlement of more than 3,000 people after finding that those homes were constructed on land where Palestinians proved ownership.

Such judicial rulings upholding Palestinian property rights have riled Israel’s right-wing, as it promotes plans to expand construction in settlements built on occupied territory Palestinians seek for a state.

In one home in Ofra, police and protesters, mainly youths, linked arms and swayed in prayer before the youngsters, offering passive resistance, were taken outside.

“We feel that this is not right at all, what’s being done here: the destruction of these homes in the center of a Jewish town, in the center of a populated town that was established legally 42 years ago,” said Eliana Passentin, a spokeswoman for the local settler regional council.

There was little initial sign of the kind of violence that accompanied a larger-scale evacuation on Feb. 2 of Amona, a West Bank settlement-outpost built without Israeli government permission in 1995.

More than 100 youngsters had protested against the removal of Amona’s 300 settlers. Some 60 officers and at least four demonstrators were hurt in scuffles there that included bleach being thrown at police.

Most countries consider all Israeli settlements on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal. Israel disagrees, citing biblical, historical and political links to the land as well as security interests.

Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip, which Israeli forces left in 2005, with East Jerusalem as its capital. They say settlement construction could deny them a viable and contiguous country.

Some 550,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem, areas that are home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.

Three weeks ago, Israel’s parliament retroactively legalized about 4,000 settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land. The new law did not apply to Amona or the nine dwellings in Ofra because of standing court rulings.

Since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January, Israel has announced plans to build 6,000 more settler homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

But at a White House news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Feb. 15, Trump startled the Israeli leader by saying he would like to see him “hold back on settlements for a bit”. Netanyahu later said he hoped to “reach an understanding” with Trump on settlements.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Arab League, Egypt say Palestinian-Israeli conflict needs 2-state solution

Israeli barrier along East Jerusalem

CAIRO (Reuters) – The Palestinian-Israeli conflict requires a two-state solution, the Arab League and Egypt reaffirmed on Thursday, distancing themselves from a move away from that commitment by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The idea of a Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel has underpinned Middle East peace efforts for decades.

But the Republican president said on Wednesday after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would accept whatever peace the two sides chose, whether it entailed two states or one.

Egypt was committed to a two-state solution, a foreign ministry spokesman told state news agency MENA.

In comments also reported by MENA, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit agreed, adding that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would make the Middle East more volatile.

“It requires a comprehensive and just settlement based on a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on … 1967 borders with its capital in Jerusalem,” it quoted Aboul Gheit as saying after meeting the U.N secretary general chief Antonio Guterres in Cairo.

Guterres told a news conference on Wednesday there was “no alternative” to the two-state solution.

In Israel, Netanyahu’s far-right political allies hailed the U.S. shift in support for a Palestinian state and shrugged off a call by Trump to curb Israeli settlements on occupied land.

(Reporting by Lin Noueihed and Omar fahmy, writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Eric Knecht and Toby Chopra)

Netanyahu’s far-right allies hail U.S. shift on ‘two states’

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netayahu

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right political allies hailed on Thursday a shift in U.S. support for a Palestinian state and shrugged off a call by President Donald Trump to curb Israeli settlements on occupied land.

In his first face-to-face meeting with Netanyahu as president, Trump on Wednesday dropped a U.S. commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the longstanding bedrock of Washington’s Middle East policy.

The Republican president said he would accept whatever peace solution the Israelis or Palestinians chose, whether it entailed two states or one. “I can live with either one,” said Trump.

The ultranationalist Jewish Home party in Netanyahu’s coalition claimed some of the credit for the shift.

“What we did … definitely helped change the picture,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of Jewish Home said on Army Radio, referring to its pressure on Netanyahu ahead of his trip.

Party leader Naftali Bennett, an advocate of annexing parts of the occupied West Bank the Palestinians want in any future state, was equally upbeat in comments on Facebook.

“The Palestinian flag has been lowered and replaced by the Israeli flag,” said Bennett, who is battling Netanyahu for right-wing voters but whose party is crucial for the cohesion of the governing coalition.


Before Netanyahu’s trip, Bennett had said on Facebook “the earth will shake” if the prime minister used the words “two states” or “Palestine” in Washington. And he didn’t.

Netanyahu, who first conditionally backed Palestinian statehood in 2009, did not explicitly rule out a homeland for the Palestinians during his talks with Trump but he meticulously avoided using the term “two-state” in his remarks.

Political commentator Sima Kadmon, writing in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, said right-wingers had every reason to cheer but added that Netanyahu’s arm had needed no twisting when it came to Palestinian statehood.

“Netanyahu received exactly what he wanted from the American president. One state, two states — what difference does it make? That is precisely the attitude Netanyahu wanted to see from the president – someone who doesn’t have the foggiest clue what he is talking about,” she said.

By contrast, Palestinians voiced alarm at the change in U.S. tone. In a statement, President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his commitment to a two-state solution and demanded a halt to settlement expansion.

In the radio interview, Shaked played down Trump’s surprise call on Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a bit”, suggesting it was not a precise demand for a total freeze.

In a statement this month welcomed by Israeli officials, the White House reversed a long-standing policy of condemning building on occupied land, though it also said building new settlements or expanding existing ones may not be helpful in achieving peace.

Since Trump took office on Jan. 20, Israel has announced plans for almost 6,000 more settlement homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, drawing European and Palestinian condemnation but none from the White House.

(Editing by Gareth Jones)

Rights groups challenge Israel’s new settlements law in court

view of houses in Israeli settlement in West Bank

By Maayan Lubell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Rights groups petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday to annul a heavily criticized law that retroactively legalized some 4,000 settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

The law, approved by parliament on Monday, has drawn condemnation from Europe and the United Nations and has been described by Israel’s attorney general as unconstitutional.

Acting on behalf of 17 Palestinian villages and towns, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah), and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center also asked the court for an injunction in order to stop any registration of the plots as under settler ownership.

The Supreme Court has in the past supported Palestinian property rights and annulled laws it deemed unconstitutional.

The legal process in some of those cases took months, though the court usually rules on injunction requests within days.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the law an aggression against the Palestinian people and threatened to suspend security cooperation with Israel if its ramp-up of Israeli settlements continued.

On Tuesday Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said that if implemented, the measure would cross a new and dangerous threshold.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the action went against international law, while French President Francois Hollande said it paved the way for the annexation of territory Palestinians want as part of a future state.

The administration of new U.S. President Donald Trump has so far signaled a softer approach toward Israeli settlement policy. Trump will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington on Feb 15.

Most countries consider Israeli settlements built on land captured in the 1967 Middle East War as illegal and obstacles to peace.

Some 550,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, which was also seized by Israel in 1967, among 2.6 million Palestinians who want those territories for a future state.

In January, Israel announced it would build about 6,000 new homes in the two areas, to which it cites biblical, historical and political connections.

(Additional reporting by Luke Baker; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and John Stonestreet)

United Nations, EU condemn Israel legalizing settlements on Palestinian land

European Union foreign policy chief condenming israel

BRUSSELS/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The European Union’s foreign policy chief and the United Nations secretary-general on Tuesday criticized an Israeli move to legalize thousands of settler homes on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

The EU’s Federica Mogherini said that the law, if it was implemented, crossed a new and dangerous threshold.

“Such settlements constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten the viability of a two-state solution,” she said.

“(It) would further entrench a one-state reality of unequal rights, perpetual occupation and conflict,” she said, highlighting that the EU sees Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as illegal.

The Israeli parliament passed the legislation two weeks after the inauguration of President Donald Trump as the new U.S. president. Trump has signaled a softer approach to the settlement issue than that of the previous U.S. administration.

It retroactively legalizes about 4,000 settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the action went against international law and would have legal consequences for Israel.

“The Secretary-General insists on the need to avoid any actions that would derail the two-state solution,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement, referring to longstanding international efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

French President Francois Hollande also added his voice to the condemnation, saying it paved the way for the annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories.

“I think that Israel and its government could revise this text,” Hollande said at news conference after meeting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas called the law an aggression against the Palestinian people. Other Palestinian leaders described it as a blow to their hopes of statehood.

Most countries consider the settlements, built on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War, illegal and an obstacle to peace as they reduce and fragment the territory Palestinians seek for a viable state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Israel disputes this and cites biblical, historical and political connections to the land, as well as security needs.

Though the legislation was backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition, it has raised tensions in the government. Israel’s attorney-general has said the law is unconstitutional and that he will not defend it at the Supreme Court.

A White House official said on Monday that, given the new law is expected to face challenges in Israeli courts, the United States would withhold comment for now.

The Trump administration has signaled a far softer approach to the settlement issue than that of the Obama administration, which routinely denounced settlement announcements.

(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Angus MacSwan)