Israel to approve another 1,000 homes in West Bank settlements

Israeli forces attack a Palestinian cameraman filming a protest against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank on 21 June 2013. (Photo: AFP - Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Published Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Israeli authorities are expected on Wednesday to give the green light for the construction of 1,071 new homes in six illegal West Bank settlements, watchdog Peace Now said in a statement on Tuesday.

The news came as US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Jordan at the start of a sixth round of talks to try to get peace negotiations rolling.

It also came as the European Union was due to publish on Friday guidelines barring member states from funding projects in illegal Jewish settlements.

Peace Now said that a government committee was expected to grant initial approval for plans to build 339 homes at Galgal and Almog settlements in the Jordan valley, Kfar Adumim northeast of Jerusalem and at Kochav Yaacov and Shilo near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Another 732 units were to be given a more advanced level of approval, one stage before the start of construction, at the West Bank's biggest settlement, Modiin Ilit, a community of 58,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews west of Ramallah, it said.

"These approvals are part of an unprecedented wave of advancing settlement plans," Peace Now said. "This is yet another message by Israel to the US and the Palestinians that this government is not ready for peace."

All Jewish settlements are considered illegal under international law.

Israel has escalated the expropriation of Palestinian land and the construction of West Bank settlements late last year to punish Palestinians for upgrading their member status at the UN.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile on Tuesday slammed the EU for barring the bloc's 28 member states from funding projects in Jewish settlements.

"We shall not accept any external dictates on our borders," his office quoted him as telling an emergency ministerial meeting.

The EU move infuriated Israel, with another high-ranking official describing it as an "attack" on the Jewish state.

"When it comes to disputed territories, the Europeans prefer to attack a small country like Israel instead of taking on more powerful states, because they're afraid of retaliation," the unnamed Israeli official was quoted by AFP as saying.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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