Israel Approves New Illegal Settlement Building in Occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank
Israel will allow more than 1,200 new settler homes to be built in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, flouting international law and continuing a process described by critical international observers as a form of ethnic cleansing.
Agence France-Presse reports that Israel offered tenders for 1,213 new homes in settler neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem, while re-offering tenders for 72 new homes in the occupied West Bank. The East Jerusalem units will be built in the Pisgat Zeev and Ramot developments, while 72 units have been approved in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
The Israeli move comes just after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reaffirmed his commitment to peace talks and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during an interview on Israeli television.
“We don’t want to use terror; we don’t want to use force,” Abbas said. “We want to use diplomacy and negotiations.” The Palestinian leader even went so far as to concede that he has no permanent claim on the town from which he was forcibly expelled by Zionist forces during the 1948-49 ethnic cleansing campaign that accompanied Israel’s founding.
“I visited Safed before once. I want to see Safed. It’s my right to see it, but not to live there,” Abbas said, raising eyebrows and ire among Palestinians who consider right of return among the most sacrosanct principles of their freedom struggle.
But the Palestinians say they will not hold peace talks as long as Israel continues to build and expand settlements on land that was stolen from them and land that would be part of a future independent Palestinian state.
European Jewish settlers on a mission to reestablish the ancient kingdom of Israel, known as Zionists, began migrating to Palestine, which was more than 90 percent Arab, in the late 1800s. The Jewish population of Palestine (which was ruled by the Ottoman Empire as part of Syria until after World War I, when it became a British protectorate) grew but did not exceed 30 percent until after the establishment of Israel in 1948.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 and Israeli settlers have established and expanded settlements throughout the West Bank in violation of international law ever since. The United Nations has passed many resolutions condemning settlements; the United States, Israel’s most staunch ally, uses its Security Council veto power to render these little more than symbolic protests.
The settlement of Ariel, home to more than 17,000 Israelis, was established in 1978 on land illegally seized under false pretenses. A ‘security’ barrier surrounding Ariel has separated seven Palestinian villages from the town of Salfit, greatly increasing the difficulty of accessing vital services.
Settlements have been a point of contention between the right-wing Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama, who has repeatedly called on Israel to halt settlement construction. Despite the $3 billion in annual military aid given to Israel by the United States, Netanyahu has responded by expanding settlements and declaring that much of the occupied territory “will be an inseparable part of the state of Israel for eternity.”
UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, an American, said that Israeli settlement building and the forcible expulsion of Palestinian residents are “creating an intolerable situation” that “can only be described… as a form of ethnic cleansing.” Irish Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and Holocaust survivor Suzanne Weiss have also called Israel’s actions ethnic cleansing.
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