Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Israeli settlement expansion undermines peace talks, again

By Editor - August 15, 2013
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [settlement construction] [Settlement Expansion] [Peace Process] [John Kerry] [Fatah]

Tuesday August 13th-The Israeli government approved more than 900 new housing units in the Gilo settlement of East Jerusalem just hours before Israeli and Palestinian negotiators sat down in Jerusalem to resume peace talks.  Two days earlier, , Israel’s Housing Minster announced plans to build almost 1200 new units in a number of West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements, bringing the total to over 3000 since Thursday of last week

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, of the 1200 units announced on Sunday nearly 800 residential units will be sold in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Gilo, Har Homa (Homat Shmuel), Ma'aleh Adumim and Pisgat Ze'ev.  394 units will be sold in West Bank settlement blocs in Ariel, Efrat and Beitar Illit.

Most of the new settlement starts are located in highly contentious areas in and surrounding East Jerusalem. Palestinians fear that construction in this area is designed to sever the desired Palestinian capital from the rest of the West bank.

These announcements threaten to shatter the already fragile and largely unpopular (at least in Palestine) U.S. brokered peace talks that commenced earlier last week.   

Debra DeLee, president of Americans for Peace Now commented, “Today’s announcement of the approval of nearly 1000 additional settlement units in East Jerusalem appears to reflect nothing short of deliberate effort to extinguish any hopes of success for the Kerry-backed peace effort before the second round of talks even starts.” 

In an interview with Reuters, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterated this point saying "Those who do these things are determined to undermine the peace negotiations, are determined to force people like us to leave the negotiating table.”  Saeb added, “If the Israeli government believes that every week they're going to cross a red line by settlement activity, if they go with this behavior, what they're advertising is the unsustainability of the negotiations," he added.

In Palestine, most political factions except Fatah have rejected the peace talks out of hand.  In an interview with Al-Monitor, Rabah Mhanna, senior member of the Popular Front for Liberation Of Palestine (PFLP) party said the peace talks were "political suicide" that resuming negotiations "will only lend Israel more legitimacy and give it free hands to commit more crimes while providing a cover for its ongoing atrocious policies in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank." 

These recent developments are likely to heighten widespread skepticism surrounding the peace talks, as settlement construction on Palestinian land and the isolation of East Jerusalem are at the heart of the conflict.  

Today more than 500,000 settlers live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  The last round of peace talks in 2010 broke down amidst continued Israeli settlement activity.





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