Israel tells EU not to 'interfere in West Bank' after settlement criticism
Israel's foreign minister has told EU countries not to "intervene" in the West Bank issues, following criticism from leading European countries about the new far-right government's approval of settlements in the occupied territories.
Eli Cohen told the ambassadors of 27 EU countries that Israel "will not accept in any other context the intervention of European countries in the Israeli-Palestinian issue", claiming that Israel would not interfere in the domestic politics of other countries, despite evidence to the contrary.
"If they want to contribute to humanitarian issues, that is their wish, but an attempt by other European countries to contribute to Palestinian organisations that try to establish facts on the ground, I will fight this phenomenon and prevent it," Cohen said, according to Haaretz.
"I think that no one else should intervene in internal issues that are related to democracy and the Israeli public."
France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and US said last week they were "deeply concerned" by the Israeli government's legalisation of nine Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
"We strongly oppose these unilateral actions which will only serve to exacerbate tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution," the group of nations said in a joint statement.
Most countries view Israel's settlements in the Palestinian territories as illegal and a major obstacle to peace.
Settlers have been known to vandalise Palestinian farmland and property, or physically attack local Palestinians, sometimes fatally.
Cohen did try to assure the Europeans that his government will not approve further illegal settlements, for now, yet the administration includes a number of extremist figures, some of whom are settlers themselves, and will likely resist this.
This includes far-right ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who have both backed settlement expansions with Smotrich expected to approve 7,000 new settlement units this week.
Even figures from Israel's centre and centre-right have criticised the government's announcement of a settlement freeze.
Leader of the Israeli opposition Benny Gantz said he was "surprised that the government agreed to the freeze. We never agreed to this, despite repeated requests from the Americans".