Israel responds to UN vote by approving 3,000 new settlement units and plans to build in strategic West Bank corridor

Israel/Palestine
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settlements
(Photo: Reuters)

Update

Here is a collection of responses to the Israeli announcement –

Haim Erlich, Executive Director of Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights:

“Israel’s decision is a collective punishment that will also exacerbate the ongoing trampling of Palestinian human rights. Israel should have understood by now that such behavior, denying basic human rights of millions in contradiction to international law, will no longer be tolerated by the international community. Expanding building in the West Bank will also implicate more Israelis in committing offenses to international law. Yesh Din calls on the Israeli government to retract this decision.”

Diana Buttu, former legal advisor to President Abbas and Palestinian negotiators and former PLO spokesperson:

‘Israel’s announcement that it plans to colonize the E-1 area was expected. Israel has always punished Palestinians for demanding their rights. This time, however, Israel’s plans are also taking aim at the Europeans and the US, who for over a decade have pressed Israel not to colonize this land because it will mark the “death of the two-state solution.” With Israel’s latest announcement, the ball rests with the international community. Will it sanction Israel in an attempt to save the two-state solution, or will it revert to its usual lip service?’

Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund and the Palestine Center:

‘For the past 45 years, the geographic patterns of Israel’s colonial project surrounding Jerusalem have made it clear that its intentions did not match its rhetoric regarding a desire for a two-state solution. In reality, settlement blocs were placed around the city in an effort to cut it off from the remainder of the occupied Palestinian West Bank. Expansion projects have aggressively filled in the gaps making an equitable division of the city, a principle component to any just two-state outcome, impossible. Today’s announcement about expansion in the “E-1” area fills in territory that bisects the West Bank and further closes the noose around Jerusalem.

‘Ironically, the Palestinians went to the UN because they saw no benefit in a “Peace Process” in which the US failed to restrain Israeli colonialism. Today, the response from the US has been to demand Palestinians return to these negotiations and the response from Israel has been continued land grabs. Both Israel and the US could not have done more to support the Palestinians’ rationale.’

Daniel Levy, former Israeli peace negotiator:

‘Yesterday at the United Nations the Palestinian leadership endorsed a two-state outcome. Today in its settlement decision on the E-1 corridor, the Israeli Government endorsed a one-state outcome. Israel’s American sponsors might want to inquire as to whether the one-state outcome Israel’s leaders have in mind is democratic or “apartheidist” in its orientation.

‘President Obama began his first term by calling for a full settlement freeze. The consensus in Washington is that this was a mistaken move by the new President. It was not. The mistakes began when Obama blinked first, refused to apply the huge leverage at America’s disposal, and never got the freeze. He has been stared down by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ever since. If President Obama is not up to trying again, this time with muscle, then the conversation to start having with Israel’s leader should be about democracy rather than separation.’

Ali Abuminah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada:

‘Yesterday, amid great fanfare, the UN General Assembly voted to admit “Palestine” as a non-member state. Today, Israel announced its intention to build thousands more settler housing units on the territory of this supposed state. What now will be the international response in the wake of yesterday’s vote? Will there be real, concrete action — including sanctions — to force Israel to halt, and begin to reverse its illegal colonization of the 1967 occupied territories?

‘Sadly, that is unlikely, which means that yesterday’s vote was nothing more than a hollow gesture. Israel’s announcement should draw attention back to cold, hard reality: there is no “two-state solution.” There is one geopolitical entity in historic Palestine. Israel must not be allowed to continue to entrench its apartheid, racist and colonial rule throughout that land.’

Original Post

The Netanyahu government hasn’t wasted any time issuing a response to yesterday’s vote at the UN. The announcement that Israel plans to build in the E1 corridor is especially meaningful, because many see this stretch of land as the last hope for a contiguous Palestinian state under a two-state solution. This has been part of Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman’s plan since the beginning of their political partnership.

From Ynet:

Israel decided Thursday to approve the construction of an additional 3,000 housing units in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

In addition, the planning procedures of thousands of additional housing units in Jerusalem and the settlement blocs will be furthered, including in the segment connecting Ma’ale Adumim with Jerusalem, known as the E1 project.

State officials said Israel was considering further moves in response to the United Nations General Assembly’s recognition of Palestine as an observer state.

The decision was made by the government’s top nine ministers. A state official said the continuation of construction was done in accordance with the map of Israel’s strategic interests.

On the eve of the UN vote, the political echelon had planned to practice restraint over the Palestinian move, particularly so as not to make the world turn on Israel, but state officials said that in light of the talk of a diplomatic failure and the fact that the country is in the midst of an election campaign, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found it difficult to avoid a significant response.

Eventually, the prime minister decided to order a massive construction boom in settlements and Jerusalem neighborhoods located beyond the Green Line.

In earlier discussions on the proper Israeli response to the move, senior sources warned that a decision to build in the settlements would be interpreted by the international community as a measure of punishment against the Palestinians.

They suggested that Netanyahu wait so that the UN vote would not be linked to the decision to build in the settlements, but Netanyahu chose to respond immediately rather than wait.

Haaretz adds:

In the beginning of his term, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the Obama administration a commitment that Israel would not build in the area. Both of his predecessors, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, also promised the U.S. administration that Israel would not build in E1.

Former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer told Al-Monitor’s Laura Rozen, “If the announcement is real and not simply a PR move for internal politics reasons, it should spur the Administration into action, as the United States has been adamant for many years, including in the Bush Administration, that Israel not build in E-1.”
 

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