Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias commented Saturday night on the cabinet decision to approve the construction of 3,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria, saying in the coming days his office will start selling hundreds of new housing units in Pisgat Ze’ev.
Pisgat Ze’ev, named after Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the ideological forefather of the Likud movement, is the largest residential neighborhood in Jerusalem, with a population of more than 50,000. The neighborhood was established by Israel as one of the city’s five ring neighborhoods on land that was annexed after the 1967 Six Day War.
Most of the international community considers Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem illegal under international law, but the Israeli government disputes this as per the Edmond Levey report which determined that Judea and Samaria rightfully belong to Israel. This report, while not yet officially state policy, is turning into a guiding document for Israeli policy.
The U.S. opposes construction in the area because it effectively sabotages a contiguous Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Pisgat Ze’ev is situated east of Shuafat and Beit Hanina, west of Hizma, south of Neve Yaakov, and north of ‘Anata and the Shuafat refugee camp.
A source in the housing and construction ministry told Kikar HaShabbat that since, after the Israeli government decided on an unprecedented, ten-month freeze on construction, Abbas refused political negotiations, “There is no benefit in maintaining a de facto construction freeze while Abbas is delegitimizing Israel. Abbas’s move at the UN will not bring the Palestinians any closer to having their own state.”
“At the same time,” the same source maintained, “we are committed to increasing the supply of residential land throughout the country. Our policy of increasing the supply of land has culminated in the marketing of more than 130,000 housing units in recent years, generating a 13-year record of the volume of active construction. We have to persist with this policy to further lower demand and prices.”
Following the Palestinians unilateral move at the UN declaring themselves a state, and in abrogation of the Oslo Accords,Israel appears to be both flexing muscle and retaliating for the Palestinians unilateral UN move, and this seems to be worrying the Palestinians and their supporters.
The NY Times on Sunday quotes anti-settlement activist, attorney Dani Seidemann, as saying: “Now approaching the point of no return,” the announced new construction drive would be “the largest settlement surge in Jerusalem since the 1970s.”
And Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, told the Times that Israel is moving at “a mad pace” to “impose its own solution” to the conflict. “They want to predetermine the fate and status of Jerusalem,” she said, adding that Israel “does everything to create on the ground facts that would make any solution impossible.”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Saturday expressed his concerns over Israeli plans to establish 3,000 new settlements in East Jerusalem. “The UK strongly advises the Israeli government to reverse this decision,” Hague said in a statement reported by AFP.
Hague also cautioned that “the window for a two-state solution is closing, and we need urgent efforts by the parties and by the international community to achieve a return to negotiations, not actions which will make that harder.”
He added that the decision makes a sustainable two-state solution increasingly difficult.
We sincerely hope so.
The US condemned the Israeli project on Friday, saying it was “counterproductive.”
“Direct negotiations remain our goal and we encourage all parties to take steps to make that easier to achieve,” said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Washington that the Obama Administration has been clear with Israel that establishing settlements set back the peace negotiations.
Again, we sincerely hope so.
France on Saturday and called on Israel not to go through with its decision to expand settlements. “I call on Israeli authorities to refrain from any decision to that effect and to clearly show their willingness to restart [peace] negotiations,” said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
Finally, the AP quoted Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour, who called the Israeli announcement “a provocation.”
“They are trying to provoke us to react — I don’t know in which way,” Mansour told the General Assembly.
Figure it out.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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