Peace Now says 596 new structures in WB settlements in six months 23Aug09 August 24, 2009

Bethlehem – Ma’an
23 August 2009

Settlement building Jerusalem

Israel has illegally built 596 new structures in West Bank settlements and plans to build major new settlement in East Jerusalem, Israeli advocacy organizations reported on Sunday.

The semiannual settlement monitoring report from Peace Now shows that illegal construction is continuing on land seized from Palestinians from the West Bank, often in contravention of stated attempts to slow or halt building.

Many of the 596 units of new building “is construction based on old plans that were approved years ago. This is meant to bypass the ‘settlement freeze,’ without needing to approve a new plan that must receive the defense minister’s approval,” the report states.

This revelation is especially significant in the wake of reports that Israel may, in a concession to US calls for a total freeze, declare a moratorium on new construction in settlements.

“It is within the power of the government to prevent construction that was approved in the past However, it is politically easier for the government to allow the construction while turning a blind eye,” Peace Now continues.

Peace Now also reveals that according to Israel’s own official figures “there are more than 40,000 [settlement] housing units in plans that were approved in the past but have not yet been actualized.”

“Theoretically, it is possible to double the number of settlers in the settlements without approving a single new plan,” the report states.

In addition to the realization of old plans, Peace Now reports, some of the new construction is actually illegal under Israeli law.

Of the 596 new structures that began in the first half of 2009, 96 were in so-called settlement “outposts,” unauthorized by the Israeli government.

’Hebronization’ of Jerusalem

Separately, the Israeli organization Ir Amim, which promotes coexistence in Jerusaelm, reports that Israeli municipal authorities have approved the construction of a 104 units of settlement housing in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood Ras Al-Amoud.

Ir Amim director Yehudit Oppenheimer told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, “We are talking about a massive expansion of an existing settlement in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood, into a settlement of more than 1,000 in the heart of a crowded Palestinian neighborhood in the eastern part of the city.”

“This is a very sensitive place, and this settlement is a continuation of the ‘Hebronization’ process in Jerusalem, which damages the chances for a future agreement. This is a blatant provocation against Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, and has a very dangerous potential,” said Oppenheimer.

Sources at the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality told Yedioth however that a discussion on the project was scheduled by a committee, but was postponed for “technical reasons.”

Yedioth also quoted a municipality statement saying that “the plan was discussed by the municipality’s professional teams, and has not been approved for advancing planning as it does not match the urban planning policy in this area.”


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