PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES Israel to build 942 more homes in occupied East Jerusalem
Israeli leader Netanyahu vows ahead of elections to continue building on occupied land
Occupied Jerusalem: Israel has advanced the process of building 942 more colony homes in occupied East Jerusalem under a new fast-track plan to tighten its grip on the territory, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state.
A government planning committee on Monday moved the project to the advanced stage of asking contractors to submit bids to build them, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. Once a bid is awarded, construction can begin on the project in the Jews-only colony of Gilo, though it can take months, if not longer, to reach that point.
An additional 300 units can be built after further planning, said attorney Daniel Seidemann, an expert on occupied Jerusalem construction who sees the building as an obstacle to peacemaking. About 40,000 Jewish colonists live in Gilo.
“With God’s help, we will continue to live and build in [occupied] Jerusalem, which will remain united under Israeli sovereignty,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the campaign launch event of his Likud Party. “We will continue to strengthen the [colonies].” Israeli elections are set for January 22.
Nabeel Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas, said the new Israeli announcement was a “red line” that would block the chance for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which a Palestinian state would be established alongside Israel.
“The Palestinian Authority will take all the possible means available to respond to this,” said Abu Rudeineh. The statement was posted on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
The newly-approved homes are among more than 5,000 new Jews-only homes in occupied East Jerusalem that Israel pressed ahead over the past week. Palestinians and the international community do not recognise Israel’s 1967 annexation of the territory and say any Israeli construction there undermines Palestinian claims to it.
Netanyahu launched a settlement construction push to punish the Palestinians after the United Nations recognised a de facto Palestinian state in occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip last month. Israel says the Palestinians can achieve a state only through negotiations with the Israeli government, and regards the UN bid as a manoeuvre to sidestep talks.
The Palestinians have said they hope the upgraded status will allow them to return to the negotiating table with a stronger hand. Talks stalled four years ago, primarily over the construction of Jewish colonies.
The construction push in occupied East Jerusalem has drawn international condemnation, as have plans to build thousands of more colony homes in the West Bank.
Israel occupied both areas and Gaza in 1967.