Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Israel ‘eyes long term plans’ to build 24,000 more W.Bank settler homes

Israel ‘eyes long term plans’ to build 24,000 more W.Bank settler homesHouses in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Psagot (Reuters / Mohamad Torokman)Houses in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Psagot (Reuters / Mohamad Torokman)

Israel has long term plans to build some 24,000 extra settler homes on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, according to the anti-settlement group Peace Now. Tenders cover highly sensitive land around Jerusalem stoking fears of peace talk disruption.
One plan called for construction in a stretch of land located between Jerusalem and Ramalla, which is the seat of the Palestinian government. 
Peace Now, the group, issued a statement on Tuesday declaring that the housing ministry had issued tenders and drawn up plans to construct the extra settlements. However, no actual building work is“imminent” according to the scheme. 
“With tenders for planning, what we are seeing is a very early stage that can open the door for construction not in the short term, but several years down the road,” the group said in the statement. 
The planned project is divided into 19,786 housing units on the West Bank and a further 4,000 in East Jerusalem. The housing units in the West Bank have a price tag of nearly $13 million, according to Haaretz. "This is a record," Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer told AFP. 
The plans include the possible construction of 1,200 housing units in the controversial E1 area, located adjacent to East Jerusalem. Anonymous Israeli ‘political sources’ declared that when Netanyahu got wind of the plans for E1, he demanded that all construction be halted there.
Israel is currently in the process of attempting to restart peace talks with the Palestinians and the news could severely impede the slow steps towards progress that have been taken in recent months. 
Peace talks resumed again in July following a three year hiatus and as yet minimal progress has been made. US Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to Israel to restrict settlement building as much as possible in order not to hinder the progress of the discussions. 
“The issuing of tenders for planning is unequivocal evidence that Netanyahu intends to prevent the real chances of a negotiated agreement and a two-state solution,” said Peace Now. The organization continued that it would now make it “even more difficult for the Palestinians to remain at the negotiating table.”  
A Housing Ministry spokesperson said that the tenders are a “basis for building plans” and that only a small fraction of the blueprints ever lead to construction. 
“They all still have to go through lengthy legal procedures before building starts,” said Rosenberg. 
An official Palestinian statement has not yet been released regarding the plans. 
Israel claims that it has both historic and biblical links to the lands upon which it is building settlements, with Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accusing the Palestinians of creating an artificial crisis over of the matter. However, Palestinians are concerned that Netanyahu’s persistence will stand in the way of Palestinian self-determination and statehood. 
“The talks are only for show. Behind the scenes, the government plans to destroy all chance of the two-state solution,” said Oppenheimer. 
The majority of countries recognize the Israeli settlements as illegal under international law.