A massive construction of homes in East Jerusalem and the surrounding area has been approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The new construction is being seen as a form of retaliation for attacks by Palestinians.
On Sunday, Netanyahu and his freshly-appointed defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, signed off on plans for putting up 560 new housing units in Ma’ale Adumim, a West Bank settlement right outside the capital, according to the Jerusalem Post. Around 140 homes more were approved for the Jewish East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot and other 100 for the Har Homa neighborhood, in southeast Jerusalem.
The permit was also issued for 600 homes in the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa. The decision, however, came under fire from local Israeli authorities, with the minister for Jerusalem affairs, Zeev Elkin, calling it one-sided and demanding new units also be approved for the Israeli neighborhood of Givat Hamatos which borders on Beit Safara.
“Those who want to maintain a Jewish majority in the capital cannot promote construction for the Arab population only,” he said, as cited by the Times of Israel. Ministers have been urging Netanyahu to ramp up West Bank construction as one of the retaliatory measures to a recent killing which occurred in the Israeli settlement Kiryat Arba in the occupied West Bank, Haaretz reported.
This comes in addition to the array of steps already taken up by the Israeli government in the wake of the brutal murder of 13-year old Hallel Yaffa Ariel, a US citizen, by a Palestinian assailant on Thursday.
“We are using various means, including aggressive measures that we have not used in the past,” Netanyahu said Sunday.
Among the measures announced was blocking the Hebron governorate with over 700,000 residents, where the attacker`s native town of Bani Naim is located, and withdrawing work permits from all of its residents. In course of the raids Sunday, six Palestinians, including the sister of the attacker, were arrested by Israeli forces.
On Friday, Liebermann also authorized the building of extra 42 housing units in the West Bank, reopening a construction tender frozen more than a year ago due to the lack of bidders.
Furthermore, Israel banned the Palestinian governor of Hebron, Kamal Ahmad Hassan Hamid, from the country, accusing him of condoning terrorism. Ahmad visited the home of Mohammed Nasser Tra’ayra on Sunday to offer his condolences to the family.
“We were hoping that the Palestinian leadership would issue a pacifying and restrained statement, but unfortunately it does the opposite,” reads a statement by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, referring to Ahmad`s visit. The agency is responsible for implementing Israeli government`s policy in the occupied territories.
The minister, however, dismissed the accusations, insisting his visit was in line with Palestinian cultural traditions and not of a political nature.
As the rift between the Palestinian authorities and Israeli leadership deepens, the two-state solutions seems less likely in a foreseeable future, according to the report by Middle East Quartet published on Friday.
The document slams Israel`s settlement policy, accusing Israel of “steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution,” while at the same time calling on the Palestinian leadership to restrain Palestinians from instigating terror.
“The Quartet report sounds an alarm bell that we are on a dangerous slope towards a one-state reality that is incompatible with the national aspirations of both peoples”, Nikolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, wrote in a statement Sunday.
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