December 18, 2011
REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- Israel's Housing Ministry announced Sunday that it would construct more than 1,000 housing units in the West Bank and Jerusalem area on land it seized during the 1967 Mideast war.
The expansion includes 500 units in Har Homa, 348 in Beitar Ilit and 180 in Givat Zeev.
Linda Forsell's June 21 photos of ongoing construction in the Israeli settlement of Har Homa expose the illusion of Netanyahu's settlement freeze
“Some countries around the world may not be happy about this but they shouldn’t be surprised,” Housing Minister Ariel Atia told the Israeli news site Ynet. He said the move would lower home prices and increase supply, assisting young Israeli couples looking for affordable housing.
According to Atia, the expansion was approved in response to the Palestinian Authority's successful bid last month to join UNESCO, the United Nations organization. Israel opposed the effort, saying it would discourage Palestinians from returning to the negotiating table.
The U.N. and many countries consider such settlement construction illegal and have urged Israel to refrain from building on land that Palestinians hope to one day make part of their state.
The development of Har Homa is seen as particularly sensitive because its expansion threatens to cut off direct access between Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Bethlehem.
The number of new settlement units approved in 2011 is expected to be about three times the number approved in recent years, according to Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, an Israeli group that tracks settlements.
“This government is doing it because there is no pressure to stop them," Ofran said. “After [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu got standing ovations in Congress [during a U.S. visit in May] he feels he can do whatever he wants.”
(for reference on Har Homa and Israel's refusal to stop expanding these illegal settlements, and the US'complicity in turning a blind eye, while making ineffective 'protests'.)
Max Blumenthal on Modoweiss 7 May 2010
With the Israeli settlement moratorium scheduled to expire on September 26, the right-wing parties in Israel’s coalition government are exerting maximum pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to block the policy’s renewal. “Let’s get rid of the freeze and get back to building,” declared Israeli Minister of Public Affairs and the Diaspora Yuli Edelstein on Israel National Radio yesterday. “It’s our land anyway!” (Edelstein lives in the settlement of Neve Daniel).
Back in the US, the former Israel lobbyist and ex-Clinton Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk took to the Washington Post’s op-ed page to praise Netanyahu and Barack Obama for ensuring that “there were zero building starts in the West Bank settlements.”
During the week of June 21, I traveled through the West Bank with Swedish photojournalist Linda Forsell to document new settlement construction and the settlers’ theft of water from Palestinian towns. Forsell took a series of photos at Har Homa, a massive Israeli settlement towering over the Palestinian town of Beit Sarhour. Her photos show ongoing construction of hundreds of new settlement units — documents of the settlement freeze sham.
Netanyahu authorized the building of new settlement units just days after he announced the freeze in November 2009. He attempted to disguise new settlement construction by drawing a false distinction between the West Bank and “parts of Jerusalem” like Har Homa that actually lie outside 1967 lines. As Israeli government flack Mark Regev remarked in December 2009, “We’ve made a clear distinction between the West Bank and Jerusalem. Jerusalem is our capital and will stay as such.” With a few exceptions, Obama allowed this scheme to go forward.
According to the Washington Post, Obama’s meeting with Netanyahu this week will have more to do with reassuring Jewish Democrats than with halting the wholesale colonization of the West Bank. As the Post’s Anne Kornblut reported, “The White House meeting will not dwell on some of the most difficult time-sensitive issues, including the expiration of a moratorium on Israeli settlement construction in September.” This may mean an end to the settlement freeze, but it was only an illusion after all.