Never let a serious crisis go to waste. This is the first thought that crossed my mind when I read Israel National News headline: ‘We’re taking advantage of the US elections to build’:
We’re taking advantage of the upcoming government change in the US to push projects forward that had been stalled, said the Head of the Municipal Council for Planning and Building, Vice-Mayor Meir Turgeman.
Another source added that “The Prime Minister’s silence on this matter is a green light as far as we’re concerned.”
Israel will use every opportunity to expand the breadth of their illegal colonies on Palestinian land, and the US election season is no exception. Jerusalem Online picked up the story too reporting “Jerusalem construction accelerated due to US elections“. The articles claim officials from the Jerusalem Municipality told Channel 2 News that plans to build 57 new housing units over the green line in the occupied East Jerusalem colony of Ramot had been fast-tracked because of U.S. election season and “the accelerated process is not a coincidence”.
Last year when the national planning committee (VATMAL) approved a huge expansion of Ramot (1,638 housing units on 10 acres) environmentalists slammed the plan saying it would threaten the environment. Even Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barak said it would “bring serious harm to the city.” And this May the Municipality’s chief engineer, Shlomo Eshkol, decried the program for not “following the guidelines of the city’s urban renewal plan“.
Ramot illegally buttresses the continually shrinking besieged Palestinian village of Beit Iksa. Readers may recall we’ve written about Beit Iksa before, when Israel seized 100 more acres of their village land to extend the wall, effectively annexing around 12,000 dunams of Beit Iksa’s coveted agricultural land with olive orchards and grape vineyards.
Beit Iksa is now completely surrounded on all sides by the illegal wall and the majority of Beit Iksa’s land has been cut off from the village, including 371 acres where illegal colonies have already been built.
In 2014 the Israeli military announced they would confiscate another 3,167 acres from Beit Iksa. Village leader Saada al-Khatib said it would turn the village into “a 2,500-dunum prison“. That’s because Israel has blocked the old road which used to connected Beit Iksa to Jerusalem and now military rules allow only the villagers to enter and exit through a checkpoint on the only remaining road accessing the village.
And when the military forces arrived at Beit Iksa to deliver the confiscation orders they gave them “until Dec. 31, 2017 to remain on their land”. The soldiers showed the villagers maps of the new areas to be confiscated and said it would be used for “military purposes”.
The orders were signed by the Israeli military commander in the West Bank. Israeli officials denied this happened the very next day, and then promptly announced plans to build 200 more units to Ramot (eventually increased to include 600 new units) — thus providing U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki the opportunity to slam Israel’s “unfortunate” illegal settlement expansion plans twice in 10 days. The U.S. had just previously lambasted Israel for announcing plans to add hundreds of new housing units in Ramat Shlomo — right next to Ramot.
This is the area Israel plans to expand under cover of U.S. elections. Which U.S. politicians will dare to criticize Israel during an election campaign?
Last fall the Jerusalem Post reported Netanyahu hoped to pass illegal settlement expansion in East Jerusalem “under the radar” as the world focused on terror attacks in Paris. Never let a serious crisis go to waste.