Tuesday, September 26, 2017

West Bank settlers to build 463 new houses despite UN, USA condemnation


By Matt Matthews - September 03, 2016
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Settlement Expansion] [UN]

Settlements in the West Bank will be hosting another 463 housing units, after permission for several major building projects was granted by the Israeli Civil Administration on August 31.

Four illegal settlements in the central West Bank - Elkana, Ofarim, Beit Arye and Giva't Ze'ev - are to expand. Over 2500 new builds have been approved since the start of the year.

This is despite the fact that a string of UN Security Council resolutions have found the settlements to be illegal under international law.

Three days before the swathes of new housing were granted permission, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, reminded the Council that the settlements have “no legal validity and are an obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

On the same day that Israel waved through the new building projects, US State Department spokesperson, John Kirby, expressed similar concerns at a Washington press conference. He added: “We are particularly troubled by the policy of retroactively approving unauthorized settlement units and outposts that are themselves illegal under Israeli law.”

This policy was most recently deployed in Ofarim, a settlement 32km north of Jerusalem. The 179 new housing units there were already complete by the time the Civil Administration chose to grant planning permission on August 31. Since the start of the year, over 700 new settlement properties have enjoyed this type of back-dated protection.

Like all 125 settlements, Ofarim is in the West Bank’s Area C, where Israel retains almost complete control over civil, military and planning law. The 200 to 300,000 Palestinians living in Area C do not even have permission to build on their own land, the Israeli High Court ruled last year.

As such, the United Nations report that 98.5% of Palestinian requests for building permits in the Area are rejected. Thousands of residents have subsequently been made homeless by Israeli bulldozers tearing down properties they deem to be illegal.

A spokesperson for Peace Now, an Israeli watchdog which monitors settler activity in the West Bank, said in a statement: “The Netanyahu government continues to plan and build all over the West Bank, while also giving settlers the message that any construction done without planning will be retroactively legalized.”

“Not only [does] the Netanyahu government not believe in a two state solution, it is actively trying to kill it by building more and more in the settlements.” 

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