Sunday, March 9, 2008
Israel Approves Expansion of West Bank Settlement
"09/03/2008 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has approved the construction of hundreds of new housing units at a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, the housing ministry said on Sunday. The ministry added in a statement, that it will renew construction of a housing project in Givat Ze'ev's Agan Ayelot neighborhood, which will include hundreds of new homes in the Jerusalem area, outside of the Green Line. An estimated 750 homes are expected to be built.
The Housing Ministry and Israel Lands Administration (ILA) started marketing lots for the housing units in the Agan Ayalot neighborhood in 1999, but stopped near the end of 2000 after the eruption of the second Intifada.
The Israeli cabinet decision came after Thursday's attack on a Zionist religious school in Jerusalem. The attack drew harsh criticism to Olmert and his ministerial and security group.
There were calls by some extreme Israeli political and religious figures to built a whole settlement in the West Bank for each of the eight settles killed in the attack.
Analysts see in Olmert's move a bid to ease down the Israeli street amid new promises of deterrence, power and self confidence. "The state of Israel has the responses to all the threats and the ability to respond to all dangers, and has the force, knowledge and resourcefulness to cope with anything that can threaten the security of Israel and its citizens," the Israeli Prime Minister said.
Olmert had asked Boim to update him regarding similar projects, in order to make decisions and strategize how to explain them to the international community. The international community considers all Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land illegal.
Boim said on Sunday that "the renewal of construction at 'Agan Ayelot' is good news", adding that "an addition of hundreds of housing units is part of a policy aimed to respond to many requests and the need to balance and maintain reasonable housing prices- through supplying the demographic needs in Jerusalem." He said he "intends to continue and work towards this policy in order to strengthen Jerusalem."
The move was swiftly denounced as hampering efforts to advance faltering talks between the Palestinian authority and Israel. "We condemn in the harshest terms this decision," senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
"We consider that with this decision, Israel wants to demolish the peace process and international efforts to advance this process," he added. Erekat called on the US administration to pressure Israel to reverse its decision."