Israel green-lights construction of 78 illegal settlements in Jerusalem

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Israel has approved the construction of 78 new illegal settlement units in annexed East Jerusalem, Israeli news site Walla reported Wednesday, two days after Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel will never agree to limit its settlement building in the city.

The report said 50 settlement units will be built in the Har Homa settlement, located on a private Palestinian property between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, whereas 28 units, in addition to 200 settlements okayed last week, will be built in the Ramot settlement, located on private Palestinian land between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The decision, which was green-lighted by all the members of a planning and construction committee of the Jerusalem municipality aside from one left-wing Meretz member, came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved early November a plan for the construction of 1,060 new units in the two illegal settlements in Jerusalem.

Despite months of nearly daily clashes between Israeli Occupation Forces and Palestinians triggered in part by recent Israeli plans to build more than 3,660 settlement units across Jerusalem, Lieberman said on Sunday that Israel will never agree to limit its illegal settlement building.

"One thing should be clear: we will never accept the definition of building in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem as settlement activity," he said, adding that Israel "won't accept any limitation on building in (East) Jerusalem."

Late October, the UN Security Council met for urgent talks at Jordan’s and Palestine’s request after Israel announced plans on Monday to build 1,000 new settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

Speaking to the council, top UN official Jeffrey Feltman said the Israeli practice of moving settlers to Palestinian territories was "in violation of international law" and runs counter to a two-state solution of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is "alarmed" by the latest plans for new Israeli settlements which "once again raise grave doubts about Israel's commitment to achieving durable peace," Feltman told the council.

Even though Israel came under strong criticism from several countries, such as Russia, France, US, Britain and Spain, there was no Security Council statement condemning the Israeli violations.

Besides the 1,000 new settler homes, Israel has recently approved the construction of more than 2,600 settler homes in East Jerusalem.

According to the PLO, between 1989 and 2014, the number of Israeli settlers on Palestinian land in contravention of international law soared from 189,900 to nearly 600,000.

Last year, the World Bank estimated that Israeli control over Area C – the 61 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control – costs the Palestinian economy around $3.4 billion annually, or more than one-third of the Palestinian Authority's GDP.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

Israel then occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.

In November 1988, Palestinian leaders led by Yasser Arafat declared the existence of a state of Palestine inside the 1967 borders and the state's belief "in the settlement of international and regional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the charter and resolutions of the United Nations."

Heralded as a "historic compromise," the move implied that Palestinians would agree to accept only 22 percent of historic Palestine, in exchange for peace with Israel. It is now believed that only 17 percent of historic Palestine is under Palestinian control following the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.

Last week, in its Independence Day statement, the PLO called again for the recognition of a state of Palestine.

"One effective step that the international community can take is to recognize the State of Palestine over the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital and support Palestine's diplomatic initiatives such as the UNSC resolution to put an end to the Israeli occupation as well as our access to international treaties and organizations. This will provide additional support to the two-state solution between Israel and Palestine while nullifying any Israeli attempt to change the status quo of the occupied State of Palestine," the PLO said.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) this year set November 2016 as the deadline for ending the Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 and establishing a two-state solution.

According to PA estimations, 134 countries have so far recognized the State of Palestine, although the number is disputed and several recognitions by what are now European Union member states date back to the Soviet era.

It is worth noting that numerous pro-Palestine activists support a one-state solution, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel would not be sustainable. They also believe that the two-state solution, which is the only option considered by international actors, won't solve existing discrimination, nor erase economic and military tensions.

(Ma'an, Al-Akhbar)

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