Czech Republic Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek told reporters that Israel’s continuing construction of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank is putting the peace plan for a two-state solution at risk during his visit to Israel on Monday.
“It’s important what kind of image Israel now has in Europe. This image is deteriorating,” Zaoralek said, stressing that continued settlement expansion creates the impression that Israel is not interested in peace.
Zaoralek, who was in Israel to sign a bilateral work agreement for young people with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, also said, "This also applies to construction in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians consider the future capital of their independent state."
"It just reinforces the atmosphere of hate."
Following a visit to the Gaza Strip, Zaoralek further warned that if there is no improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza, there may well be another violent confrontation, Israel News reported.
When speaking to a Czech news agency, Zaoralek again criticised settlement building and said that the policy is threatening hopes of achieving a lasting peace. “If the building of settlements continues on the territories that fall under Palestinian autonomy, and on which no decision has been made that they should belong to Israel … it is actually a direct torpedoing of this process, the formation of two independent states,” Zaoralek was quoted saying by i24.
Speaking after his the meeting with Zaoralek, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that a Palestinian-led campaign to snub Israeli goods sought the "elimination" of the Jewish state, in reference to a boycott row with French telecoms giant Orange.
Orange announced last week plans to boycott Israeli goods with BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement) - a non-governmental organisation that aims to end the Israeli occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land.
In 2012, the Czech Republic was the only European state to vote against granting Palestine non-member state observer status at the United Nations.
Last month, Nikolay Mladenov, who was appointed as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon's Special Representative in Middle East, criticised the Israeli authorities for continuing several construction projects.
Gaza’s 1.8 million people, who were ravaged by a 50-day military campaign by Israel last summer, suffered the loss of over 2,100 Palestinians, most of whom were civilians, while 67 Israeli soldiers were also killed by rocket-fire from the coastal enclave, along with six Israeli non-combatants.
Peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians were stalled last year when the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction declared a joint government with Gaza’s Hamas authorities in response to Israel’s continued illegal settlement building in the occupied territories of the West Bank.