Israel refuses to back down on settlement plan

Thu, Dec 6, 2012, 00:00

Defying fierce international criticism, Israel has approved planning permission to build 3,000 homes in the controversial E-1 area between east Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

Parties may now submit objections before the civil administration – the body that oversees West Bank development grants’ final approval, although officials stressed that construction was not imminent.

The head of the left-wing Meretz party, Zahava Galon, said the government was leading Israel into international isolation through such a “crazy and irresponsible move”.

Israel announced the surge in settlement construction in response to last week’s United Nations vote granting Palestine non-member observer status, prompting a wave of international condemnation.

Construction in E-1 is particularly contentious, as Palestinians claim it would effectively cut the West Bank in two.

Israel has also announced plans to expand three existing Jewish neighbourhoods of Jerusalem built on occupied territory, including Givat Hamatos, which the Palestinians argue will cut off east Jerusalem from the southern West Bank.

No backing down

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Israel would not back down on construction but remained committed to a negotiated settlement: “The solution is . . a peace in which a demilitarised Palestinian state recognises the one and only Jewish state of Israel.”

Palestinian officials say they will ask the UN security council to demand a halt to the building in E-1 and Givat Hamatos. Negotiator Saeb Erekat said the US could not use their veto against people trying to save the peace process. “If the Israelis build E-1 and Givat Hamatos . . . the idea of peace . . . of a two-state solution, will disappear.”