RAMALLAH, Mar. 10 (JMCC) – Several European countries have added their voices to the chorus of condemnation aimed at Israel
, after its Ministry of Interior
announced a plan to build 1,600 more housing units in occupied East Jerusalem
The move comes on the back of US Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the region in an effort to shore up support for upcoming 'proximity talks' set to take place between the Israelis and Palestinians.
A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry, Bernard Valero, called the settlement plan illegal under international law and totally inopportune at a time when peace negotiations between Israelis and the Palestinians are restarting, according to Reuters News Agency.
The German government has also criticized Israel's housing plan, calling it 'unacceptable.' EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also criticized the decision.
US Vice President Biden slammed the announcement while at a press conference with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah. Biden released a statement to the press Wednesday morning 'condemning the decision' by the Israeli government to build further housing units in East Jerusalem. He said the move 'undermines' trust and 'runs counter' to Washington's efforts in the peace process
An Israeli official apologized to the Vice President for the bad timing of the announcement but not the plan itself.
Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose office announced the new construction on occupied Palestinian territory
, said the problem was about timing, not substance.
We had no intention, no desire, to offend or taunt an important man like the vice president during his visit, MK Yishai told Israel Radio. I am very sorry for the embarrassment. We need to remember that approvals are done according to law even if the timing was wrong.
MK Yishai is from the ultra-orthodox Shas
party which controls the Interior Ministry in the current government. Israel's opposition party, Kadima
, says it will hold a vote of no-confidence for the current coalition government after this announcement, according to the Associated Press.
Palestinians reluctantly accepted to enter into so-called 'proximity-talks' with the Netanyahu
government earlier last week. The Palestinian Authority
first sought backing by the Arab League and the PLO
before it officially accepted the US proposal in writing.
US Special Envoy George Mitchell is scheduled to return to the region next week to begin the talks.