Bern, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Switzerland has added its voice to a growing number of nations asking Israel to end its plans to build 1,600 new homes in the Occupied West Bank. The Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in a statement Thursday morning 11 March called the decision a clear violation of international law.
“The FDFA is following with concern the events taking place in East Jerusalem, and deplores the go-ahead given by the Government of Israel to the building of 1,600 new dwellings in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It asks the Government of Israel not to proceed with the building project. East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
“Switzerland considers the building of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to be a violation of international humanitarian law, which forbids an occupying power to transfer any part of its civilian population to an occupied territory. The Israeli settlements are a clear violation of international law.”
Switzerland says it considers a decision to go ahead with the building to be “incompatible with the process of finding a comprehensive and lasting settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
An Israeli housing commission announced the planned new buildings Tuesday and, according to the Jerusalem Post, Ramat Shlomo was soon after overrun by international media who spoke to residents who could not understand what why there is such a fuss over what they see as badly needed new settlements. Israel’s Interior Minister Eli Yishai sent a note of apology to US Vice-president Joe Biden for the timing of the announcement, which came just two days after Biden, who is visiting the Middle East, announced that “indirect” peace talks were underway. Yishai did not, however, call a halt to the plans.
“‘The approval was a purely technical matter and we had no intention of insulting or seeking a confrontation with the US vice president,’ Yishai said in radio interviews,” reports the Jerusalem Post.
“‘We [Israelis] tend to blame ourselves too much for things done innocently.’ However, the minister said that he did not plan to cancel the building plan, because the government’s construction freeze in the territories did not apply to Jerusalem.”