Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Just before 'peace talks' Israel announces for 3rd time in a week building plans in occupied territory
Israel's Interior Ministry gave final approval on Monday to a plan to build 942 new apartments in Gilo, a settlement neighborhood beyond the Green Line in southern Jerusalem, just one day before Palestinian leadership is slated to make a final decision on whether to attend Wednesday’s scheduled negotiating session.
It was the third time in a week just before the restart of the peace negotiations that Israel made public large new building plans in occupied territory. The timing, this shortly before the restart of the negotiations with the Palestinians, cannot be a coincidence, one is led to think. On Sunday the Israeli Housing Ministry announced plans to publish tenders for 394 housing units in the West Bank settlements of Ariël, Beitar Illit and Efrat, plus 793 in East Jerusalem, including an additional 400 in Gilo. Last Thursday the military administration of the West Bank gave the green light for almost 1.100 new houses in several settlements, including a settlement 'outpost', Nahlei Tal, that thereby de facto was 'legalized'. .
The last announcement is bound to put the peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israel, that are to begin on Wednesday in Jerusalem, further in jeopardy. On Monday Palestinian President Abbas consulted with senior Palestinian Authority officials on how to respond to the announcement Israel made on Sunday, issuing new tenders for construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Haaretz reports that Palestinian sources said Abbas also discussed the issue with Martin Indyk, America’s special envoy for the talks, as well as other Western diplomats, including German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, with whom he met in Ramallah. A senior Palestinian official said the dominant view among the Palestinian leadership is that there’s no place for resuming negotiations with Israel in light of the continued construction in the settlements. Abbas, however, on Monday seemed still determined to go on with the talks.
The plan approved by the Interior Ministry on Monday, known as Gilo – Southern Slopes, is one of the largest building plans Jerusalem has seen recently. It won final approval from the regional planning and building committee in December, but the developers then sought to make several changes in the plan. About a month ago, ministry planning officials approved the revised plan, and on Monday, the ministry finally signed off on it and allowed it to be published.According to Haaretz it pushes the boundary of the city (which was illegally fixed by Israel in 1968) further south, towards the Palestinians community of Beit Jala.
Sources within the regional planning committee said the long lapse between the panel’s approval of the plan in December and the ministry’s final approval on Monday was due to pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, which sought to delay the plan for fear of diplomatic pressure on Israel.