Edition 2: No. 68
Israel to Build 1,000 New Homes in East Jerusalem, 20 Palestinian Cars Attacked
In annexed east Jerusalem, Israel is preparing to build more than 1,000 new settler homes. At the same time, Israeli police and witnesses said suspected Jewish extremists carried out a string of attacks against about 20 Palestinian cars in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Citing Danny Seidemann, director of Jerusalem settlement watchdog Terrestrial Jerusalem an AFP report said: “Contracts for 300 homes in the northeastern settlement of Ramot were signed and another 797 plots were to be offered for sale in the southern Jerusalem settlement of Gilo, near the West bank city of Jerusalem.”
The report said: Both are in mainly-Arab areas of the holy city which were occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day war then annexed, in a move still unrecognized by the international community.
Seidemann said that the plans were approved last year, before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quietly ordered a settlement freeze, but the latest steps in their implementation were leaked to media by the office of hardline Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel.
“This does not mean that the freeze is over, it does mean that Netanyahu’s minister of construction is trying to achieve that,” Seidemann said.
Although the freeze was never officially confirmed, NGOs said that Netanyahu did not want to be seen as hampering US Secretary of State John Kerry’s initiative to breathe fresh life into moribund peace efforts.
“There is a de facto freeze at the moment, there have been no new units since the elections,” Seidemann said. He said that by publicizing the fact that building approved in the past is moving ahead Ariel was seeking to force Netanyahu into either giving his blessing or halting the work. “This is an attempt to force Netanyahu’s hand,” he said.
The news came less than a week after Kerry’s latest round of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on his fourth visit to the region since he took office in February.
On Sunday he unveiled a $4 billion US plan to boost the Palestinian economy but it met with a cool response, with an advisor to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas saying that the leadership would “not offer political concessions in exchange for economic benefits.” Abbas himself called on Israel to “end the occupation of our lands”, evacuate settlements and free Palestinian prisoners.”
The Palestinian leadership wants a total freeze on Israeli settlement construction before it resumes peace talks with Israel, which have been stalled for almost three years.
A Reuters report datelined Jerusalem, May 16, 2013 said: “Israel plans to declare legal four unauthorized West Bank settler outposts, a court document showed on Thursday, days before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry returns to the region to try to restart peace talks.”
The report by Maayan Lubell and headlined “Israel to authorise four West Bank settler outposts” said: “Israel has been sending mixed signals on its internationally condemned settlement policy as Kerry pursues efforts to revive negotiations Palestinians quit in 2010 in anger over Israeli settlement building on occupied land they seek for a state.”
In a reply to a Supreme Court petition by the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now, the government said it had taken steps in recent weeks to authorise retroactively four West Bank outposts built without official permission.
“The intention to legalize outposts as new settlements is no less than a slap in the face of Secretary Kerry’s new process and is blatant reassurance to settler interests,” Peace Now said in a statement.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment on the government’s response to the court.
Israel recently announced that it had given preliminary approval for 300 new homes in Beit El settlement as part of a plan Netanyahu announced a year ago. Some 500,000 Israelis have settled in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which was also captured from Jordan in 1967. About 2.7 million Palestinians live in those areas.