August 8, 2008
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel issued on Thursday a tender for the construction of 447 housing units in settlements in the Jerusalem area, drawing fire from Palestinians who accused the Jewish state of sabotaging chances of peace.
Under the tender, Israel will build some 130 housing units in Har Homa, an area Palestinians refer to as Jabal Abu Ghneim. The tender also calls for construction of 317 housing units in Beitar Illit, a settlement near Jerusalem.
Palestinians see the building in Har Homa as the last rampart in a wall of settlements encircling Arab East Jerusalem, cutting it off from the rest of the occupied West Bank.
Palestinians want the land for a future state with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital.
A U.S.-sponsored "road map" for peace calls for Israel to freeze all settlement activity. The World Court has branded settlements as illegal.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the latest tender made clear Israel was "choosing settlements over peace".
"I don't know how many times the Israelis have to do this for the international community to open its eyes. Can't the world see this is destroying the peace process," he said.
Israel considers Har Homa and Beitar Illit part of the broader Jerusalem municipality and has vowed to continue construction there.
Several similar tenders have been issued since Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas launched U.S.-sponsored peace talks last November.
The talks, bogged down from the start by violence and disputes over settlements, have shown little sign of progress.
Olmert, dogged by a corruption investigation, announced last week that he would step down as prime minister once his centrist Kadima party chooses a new leader in September, a move some officials saw as a fatal blow to the negotiations.
(Reporting by Joseph Nasr and Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem and Haitham Tamimi in Hebron, Editing by Samia Nakhoul)Following this announcement :
In Kuwait News Agency (kuna) (Kuwait)
August 8, 2008
The French Presidency of the European Union said Friday that the 27-member EU was "deeply concerned" by an Israeli decision to approve the construction of more illegal settlements in defiance of agreements and calls not to do so.
"The Presidency of the European Union Council is deeply concerned by the decision of Israeli authorities to approve the construction of 400 housing units in the Neve Yacov colony and to issue tenders for 286 units in Beitar Illit and 130 units in Har Homa," a statement issued in Paris said.
"This decision weakens the credibility of the ongoing diplomatic
process" which seeks to establish peace between Israelis and
Palestinians, the forceful statement added. "The Presidency of the
European Union Council recalls that the installation of settlements no
matter where this takes place in the occupied Palestinian territories,
including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law," the
French Foreign Ministry said in the most recent of strong statements on
behalf of the EU members.
It further warned that "settlement activities prejudice the negotiations on the final status and compromise the viability of a concerted solution that sets forth the coexistence of two States," Israel and Palestine.
The EU Presidential statement called on both parties to continue to respect their commitments made at last year's Annapolis peace conference and thus for Israel to respect "a complete freeze on settlement activities, including those linked to 'natural growth,' including in Jerusalem." The EU also recalled Israel's commitment to dismantle unauthorized colonies that have been set up since 2001.