Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Israel to build 770 new housing units in east Jerusalem area

Israel's Jerusalem Municipality local planning and construction committee has presented the plans for 770 new settlement housing units according to an Israeli news website.

According to Albawaba:
The new units will be considered by Israel as part of the Jerusalem district, and will be built between the illegal Gilo settlement and the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, accross from the Cremisan monastrey in the Bethlehem district of the occupied West Bank.East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel some time ago, which considers the area part of Israel even though it is not recognized internationally as such. Israel had previously approved 1,200 housing units to be built in the area and the plans for 770 of them have now been presented. Excavations and other preparations for the building are already under way.
The head of the municipal planning and construction committee, Meir Turgeman, paid no attention to international condemnation of this settlement activity regarded internationally as illegal. Turgeman said that whatever happens politically, construction will continue both in East Jerusalem and across the West Bank. Yusif al-Mahmud, spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, condemned the announcement and what he called Israeli arrogance in establishing illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank He claimed the move would increase tensions, including violence towards civilians, collective punishment, and raids.
The United States also condemned the new building plans as provocative and said that the move would undermine any prospect of peace with the Palestinians. State Department spokesperson John Kirby — not John Kerry — said:“We are deeply concerned by reports today that the government of Israel has published tenders for 323 units in east Jerusalem settlements. This follows Monday’s announcement of plans for 770 units in the settlement of Gilo.These steps by Israeli authorities are the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution."He continued, saying Israel continues a pattern of "provocative and counterproductive action" and in doing so raises serious doubts about whether Israel is committed to a peaceful and negotiated solution with the Palestinians. The UN also condemned the building of the new units.
As the settlements are built upon land the Palestinians claim as their own, the settlements are a serious obstacle to any peace deal. As a recent report from the diplomatic quarter, the US, EU, Russia and the UN claims, settlement expansion was eroding any chance of a two-state solution to the conflict.
The settlement expansion is accompanied by the demolition of Palestinian homes. It is exceedingly difficult for Palestinians to get permits to build and hence many houses do not have permits. They can simply be declared illegal by Israeli authorities and demolished. According to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, Israel demolished more Palestinian homes in the West Bank during the last seven months than in any other year in the last decade. Kirby remarked on the issue which leaves dozens of Palestinians homeless:
“More than 650 Palestinian structures have been demolished this year, with more Palestinian structures demolished in the West Bank and east Jerusalem thus far than in all of 2015. As the recent Quartet Report highlighted, this is part of an ongoing process of land seizures, settlement expansion, legalization of outposts, and denial of Palestinian development that risk entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict.”
Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967. It later annexed east Jerusalem. A recent document discussed by Haaretz shows that the first settlement was built upon a lie. Peace negotiations have been at a standstill since April of 2014.


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