Britain’s government condemned Monday what it called an “ill-judged” decision by Israel to confiscate a further 988 acres of Palestinian land in the West Bank, saying it should instead work on a ceasefire in Gaza.
Responding to Israel’s claim Sunday to the land for a Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement that the government “deplores the Israeli government’s expropriation of 988 acres of land around the settlement of Etzion.”
Hammond added that the decision would cause “serious damage to Israel’s standing in the international community.”
Israel’s announcement comes on the back of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing intense criticism at home – including from within his own coalition – for a costly 50-day conflict in Gaza with no clear victor. Although the attack had overwhelming support among Israelis, some feel Netanyahu did not go far enough and – despite mass Palestinian losses and destruction – Israel’s own death toll stood at 64 soldiers and six civilians.
Following the ceasefire with Palestinian unity government partner – and Israel’s sworn enemy – Hamas, Netanyahu’s approval rating has dropped from 69 percent to 55 percent, according to a Channel 10 poll. The land confiscation is seen as a move to appease conservatives in his government.
Britain, although having supported Israel’s “right to defend itself” against what it considers Hamas’ “terrorist” attacks, has in the past condemned Israel over settlement expansion.
“Our position on settlements is clear: they are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace and take us further away from a two state solution at a time when negotiations to achieve this objective urgently need to be resumed,” added Hammond, strongly urging Israel to reverse its decision.