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Gilo settlement expansion

19 November 2009

It is with great disappointment that the World Council of Churches (WCC) heard the news that the government of Israel has approved construction of 900 more housing units in the settlement of Gilo near East Jerusalem. The WCC strongly condemns the decision of the government of Israel to expand the illegal Gilo settlement as we believe that this decision will hinder attempts now in process to restart the peace negotiations.

The decision by the Israel government has shocked and dismayed many in the international community. This is evident in reactions from around the world deploring the decision to expand settlements on Palestinian territories. In fact, this decision to expand settlements is a violation of international law like the many before it. Gilo is built on Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. Any expansion of settlements perpetuates illegality. At a time when Palestinians—many of them impoverished—are routinely denied legitimate applications to build homes on their own land, the decision to approve construction of 900 new four- and five-bedroom housing units that will bring relatively affluent Israelis to occupied land is deplorable.

The WCC Central Committee recently stated that “the continuous settlement of lands beyond Israel’s internationally recognized borders (the 1949 Green Line borders) is almost universally rejected and met with widespread incredulity because it is illegal, unjust, and incompatible with peace and antithetical to the legitimate interests of the state of Israel.” The central committee meeting in September 2009 further noted that “if settlements continue to expand and proliferate, they will further complicate negotiations and may destroy any chance for peace”.

The WCC restates our long-held view that, in addition to their illegality, settlements defy the whole concept of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state. Our considered opinion is that the Israeli government can choose to act in a manner consistent with international law or continue to violate the rights of its Palestinian neighbours, demolish their homes, disregard international public opinion and suffer the consequences in its relationships. People of conscience and good faith around the world are looking to the government of Israel now to move toward the resolution of an interminable conflict rather than continue with decades-old policies that have driven it toward the point of no return.

The WCC asks its member churches, ecumenical partners, specialized ministries and agencies to act with resolve, and in concert, to mobilize their members and the public to reverse this decision of the Israeli government and the settlement programme it represents.

Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General secretary
World Council of Churches