ISRAEL (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — With less than a week of elections key to its political survival, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday promised the construction of 3,500 settler housing units in an area of the occupied West Bank where Bedouins live.
“I gave immediate instructions to allow the filing of plans for the construction of 3,500 units in zone E1”, territory located at the exit of Jerusalem, said Mr. Netanyahu.
If Israel builds in this area between the Jewish settlement of Adumim and Jerusalem, the West Bank will be cut in half, which would prevent the creation of a possible Palestinian state with territorial continuity, denounce the Palestinians and NGOs.
The project “violates international law and breaks all red lines,” said a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“If the project goes ahead, it will put an end to the idea of a viable Palestinian state,” said Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, co-director of the NGO Jahalin Solidarity, which defends the Bedouin families established in the E1 sector.
Godfrey-Goldstein said she feared the displacement of many Bedouin families because of this building project, which is part of a series of announcements by the Prime Minister. “This is another example showing how desperate Bibi (nickname of Mr. Netanyahu) is to win votes (…),” she said.
Netanyahu openly woos voters of the nationalist right and the pro-colonial movement in hopes of winning Monday’s legislative elections over rival centrist Benny Gantz.
These elections are all the more crucial for Mr. Netanyahu since he must face, from mid-March, the justice system which accuses him of corruption, embezzlement, breach of trust in three cases.
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Netanyahu pledged last week to build thousands of new homes in settlements in East Jerusalem, a project immediately denounced by the Palestinians and Western chancelleries.
He had promised to add 2,200 dwellings to the settlement of Har Homa, founded in 1997, and 3,000 dwellings for “Jewish inhabitants” in the area of Givat Hamatos, also in Jerusalem.
This settlement project in Givat Hamatos “undermines the viability of a future Palestinian state”, lambasted British diplomacy on Tuesday, like the French consulate after last week’s announcement by Netanyahu.
According to the Israeli NGO “Peace Now”, which is closely following this sensitive issue, the authorities published on Monday a first call for tenders for the construction of 1,000 colonization units in Givat Hamatos and will study plans for another Thursday 1,000 new units in the West Bank.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the stumbling blocks of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Palestinians intending to make the eastern part of the city, annexed by Israel, the capital of their future state while the Israeli authorities consider the whole of the city as their capital.
Today, more than 600,000 people live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The colonization of these territories, occupied since 1967 by Israel, has accelerated in recent years under the impetus of Mr. Netanyahu and his ally in Washington, President Donald Trump.
The latter presented in late January a draft settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which plans to make Jerusalem the “indivisible” capital of Israel and the annexation of the Jordan Valley and the more than 130 Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
On Tuesday, new demonstrations, punctuated by tear gas and rubber bullets by the Israeli army, took place in Tubas, in the occupied West Bank, to denounce the Trump project and a possible annexation of the Jordan Valley, according to a AFP journalist on site.
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