April 6, 2011 - 12:00am

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said on Wednesday that she was "deeply disappointed" by Israel's approval of new settlement building in East Jerusalem.

"The actions taken by the Israeli Government contravene repeated and urgent calls by the international community, including the Quartet, and run counter to achieving a peaceful solution that will preserve Israel’s security and realize the Palestinians’ right to statehood," Ashton said in a statement released on Wednesday.

The Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee recently discussed the construction of 942 housing units in Gilo, which lies beyond the Green Line. The plan has already been approved at the district level.

Ashton spoke directly about the plan, saying that it "may further damage an already fragile political environment."

"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," Ashton said.

The plan also drew condemnation from the United States, who earlier in the week, released a statement saying "not only are continued Israeli settlements illegitimate, Israel’s actions run counter to efforts to resume direct negotiations."

While the Prime Minister's Office had pledged to monitor the work of planning committees directly, fearing they may approve politically sensitive building plans - i.e., over the Green Line - at inopportune moments, the fact that this plan is moving on to the local level may indicate that that policy is being relaxed.

The district planning committee is supposed to discuss 1,608 housing units in neighborhoods beyond the Green Line next week.


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