U.S. Official: Building E. Jerusalem Homes Is a Blow to Peace Process

By Akiva Eldar (Haaretz)

Published December 28, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to construct an additional 700 apartments in East Jerusalem was another blow to already stalled peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, a U.S. official said on Monday.

“We feel that unilateral actions make it harder for people to get back together at the table, and that’s what our goals are,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity pending a formal reaction from Washington,” said the official.

“We also have mentioned in the past … that we consider all the Israeli settlements to be beyond the pale of what we wish to see going on, and are not helpful, again, to getting the two sides back to the table,” the official added.

Under the new blueprint, the Housing Ministry has invited contractors to bid on the construction of 198 housing units in Pisgat Zeev, 377 homes in Neve Ya’akov and 117 dwellings in Har Homa.

Palestinians consider Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to be settlements and say such construction impedes peacemaking.

Israel claims all of the city its capital and does not consider those neighborhoods to be settlements. Israel captured East Jerusalem, home to sensitive Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites, in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Netanyahu did not include East Jerusalem in the temporary construction freeze he declared weeks ago, saying the slowdown applies only to the West Bank.

“We make a distinction between the West Bank and Jerusalem. Jerusalem is our capital and remains such,” Regev said on Monday.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the plan, accusing Israel of exploiting what he called U.S. and international inability to halt settlement building.

“The Israeli government proves every day that it is not ready for peace,” Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdainah said.

“We condemn this Israeli policy of continuing settlement activities, and we hope this will be an eye opener for the U.S. administration and other members of the international community,” added Palestinian official Saeb Erekat.

Meanwhile, the state is considering appropriating private Palestinian land in the West Bank, the State Prosecutor’s Office informed the High Court of Justice on Sunday.

Such a move would contravene Netanyahu’s commitment not to seize land for settlement expansion.

The prosecution’s statement to the High Court on Monday came in response to a petition by human rights group Yesh Din against the construction of a sewage treatment facility that would serve the West Bank settlement of Ofra.

Construction of the facility began in 2007, on private Palestinian land from the nearby village of Ein Yabrud, in contravention of the government’s approved master plan for the area.

“The fact that today the state is trying to legitimize the land theft … by seizing land retroactively, for the sake of a settlement that was not long ago classified as ‘the largest illegal outpost in the West Bank,’ is nothing short of an outrage,” said Shlomo Zacharia, one of the lawyers representing Yesh Din. “No less grave is the fact that this conduct, which contravenes the explicit policy of the government and the prime minister, aims to cover up the failures and unwillingness of the army and the state in defending Palestinian property.”

The state said the treatment facility was built illegally, without construction permits, and that demolition orders have been issued for its destruction. However, based on the state’s response to the petition, it does not appear to be planning to enforce the law or return the land to its rightful owners. The state did say that it is examining various alternatives to dealing with the issue.

Flying in the face of commitments

The state’s position on the treatment facility appears to fly in the face of commitments Israel has made.

“Land will not be appropriated for the expansion of existing settlements,” Netanyahu said in a June speech at Bar-Ilan University.

President Shimon Peres made a similar statement at a press conference in Cairo several weeks ago, after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Eitan Broshi, Barak’s adviser on settlement affairs, told the High Court that Ofra was the largest illegal outpost in the territorie and said most of it was built illegally on private land belonging to the residents of nearby villages. He said construction permits were not issued and that no jurisdictional borders had been defined for Ofra.

Yesh Din asked the High Court in May to order a halt to all work related to the construction of the sewage treatment plant and to suspend funding for it. It also asked the court to order the Civil Administration and Shai District police, which are responsible for the West Bank, to enforce the demolition orders and destroy the facility. The petition was filed by Zacharia, Michael Sfard and Avisar Lev.

The sewage treatment facility takes up 37 dunams, of which 33 are underground. It costs an estimated NIS 7.8 million, which is funded by the government, according to official reports. Plans for building the plant were also carried out by government authorities.

In the early 1980s a different section of Ofra was appropriated for the construction of a sewage plant, but after Ofra’s southern neighborhood was built next to that land several years later, it was decided to move the plant to a different location. That land, too, like the site of most of the homes there, is on private Palestinian land.






Find us on Facebook!
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.