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Controversial law Swiss trust ‘shaken’ by Israeli settlement move

A view of home construction underway in a West Bank Jewish settlement called Shilo


Switzerland says it is very concerned by Israel’s move to legalise thousands of settler homes on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Swiss foreign ministry urged the Israeli government to reaffirm its commitment to the two-state solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], by “immediately stopping unilateral moves that comprise this being achieved”.

Israel's parliament on Monday approved a law retroactively legalising 4,000 settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land. The legislation has been condemned by Palestinians as a blow to their hopes of statehood. The move generated condemnation from Europe and the United Nations and has been described by Israel's attorney general as unconstitutional.

“The adoption of the new law [on settlements] represents a new obstacle to peace and a threat to the two-state solution. Switzerland’s confidence in the Israeli government’s commitment to the two-state solution has been shaken,” the ministry added.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the law an aggression against the Palestinian people and threatened to suspend security cooperation with Israel if its ramp-up of Israeli settlements continued.

Two-state solution

Most countries consider Israeli settlements built on land captured in the 1967 Middle East War as illegal and obstacles to peace. Israel disputes this and cites biblical, historical and political connections to the land, as well as security needs.

Switzerland has long backed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The foreign ministry said Switzerland would continue to support international efforts to ‘relaunch a credible peace process’.

Switzerland believes that ‘any future peace process should involve Arab-speaking countries in the widest sense’, it declared.

The Swiss authorities are committed to strengthening Palestinian unity. “Switzerland is in favour of a legitimate and effective authority which is able to speak and negotiate with a single voice on behalf of all Palestinians,” it said.

The divisions between Ramallah and Gaza must be reduced, the ministry went on: “The democratic space is being reduced, as is Palestinians’ trust in their institutions. Switzerland believes that local and general elections in Palestine should no longer be delayed.”

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