On 12 September a planning committee in the West Bank will consider an application from the Israeli Defence Ministry for a large new settlement project in the E1 area of the West Bank, to the east of Jerusalem.
In response representatives of the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have issued the following statement on 25 August:
Our Churches have a close association with people of all faiths living in the land of Israel and Palestine through pilgrimage, long-standing partners in the region as well as with a direct presence. It has been painful over the years to see the expansion of occupation in the West Bank to such an extent that the vision of two states living side by side appears increasingly remote. The building of Israeli settlements on the E1 area has long been opposed by the international community as it creates an insurmountable impediment to the future possibility of a contiguous Palestinian State. It would effectively split the West Bank in two and deny Palestinians direct access to East Jerusalem. Building on the E1 area would most likely spell the end for a negotiated two-State solution.
In recent years, house demolitions have made thousands of families homeless. Palestinian communities and infrastructure have been devastated in order to make way for Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, Hebron, the South Hebron Hills, around Bethlehem and in other places in the West Bank. Building on E1 threatens the homes and livelihoods of a further 2,000 people in Palestinian communities in the area. The UK government has repeatedly stated that the construction of settlements in the West Bank is illegal under international law. It is vital that our government acts with speed to halt this disturbing development.
We pray for a negotiated settlement in Israel and Palestine and commit ourselves to working for a just peace so that communities might live side by side valuing the interdependence of all peoples in the region. We joyfully celebrate positive relationships on the ground in which Israelis and Palestinians come together to articulate a common commitment to live, work and flourish together in the region. But we are in no doubt that failure to prevent settlements in the E1 area would imperil future chances for peace and further undermine the international rules-based system that our nation seeks to uphold. We ask that our government act urgently to make it abundantly clear that the granting of permission to build on E1 must inevitably have serious political and economic repercussions for the relationship between our countries.
The Revd Fiona E Bennett, Moderator of General Assembly, United Reformed Church
The Right Reverend Dr Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
The Revd Graham Thompson, President of the Conference of the Methodist Church