Middle East Online, Nov. 18, 2009
Illegal Jewish settlers; armed, dangerous and radical
UN, US, UK, France slam Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian territories.
TEL AVIV – Israel on Wednesday sought to fend off criticism of its approval of hundreds of new illegal units in Palestinian East Jerusalem.
“Freezing construction in Gilo is just like freezing construction… in any other neighbourhood in Jerusalem and Israel,” extremist Interior Minister Eli Yishai, whose ministry issued the approval on Tuesday, said.
He was referring to the illegal settlement in which the previous day Israel approved the addition of 900 new housing units, a move that drove another stake into already hobbled US-led efforts to restart negotiations that were suspended during the Israeli war on Gaza at the turn of the year.
“Construction in Jerusalem cannot be halted and Gilo is in Jerusalem,” Yishai said.
Gilo is one of a dozen Jewish settlements in the eastern part of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Holy City.
France added its voice to the chorus of Western condemnation of the move.
“It is a decision that we regret,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said in Jerusalem hours before he was to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials in Jerusalem.
“We have to restart with the political discussions,” he said.
The move to approve the new units flew in the face of Palestinian calls for a complete freeze on new building ahead of fresh peace talks.
Washington was quick to say that it was “dismayed” at the decision.
“At a time when we are working to relaunch negotiations, these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
Israeli news reports said that Netanyahu had rejected a request from his US ally to halt construction in Gilo, but it was not clear whether the request concerned the project approved on Tuesday.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon also slammed the move, saying it “undermined efforts for peace and cast doubt on the viability of the two-state solution.”
“The secretary-general deplores the government of Israel’s decision today to expand Gilo settlement, built on Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 war,” Ban’s spokesman said.
Noting that the settlements illegal, Ban appealed to Israel to respect its commitments to cease all settlement activity under the Road Map, a blue print for peace between Israel and the Palestinians under a so-called two-state solution.
The approval is likely to further hamper Washington’s so-far futile efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, amid deep disagreements over the thorny issue of settlements.
Britain condemned Tuesday Israel’s green light for hundreds of new housing units, saying it made a peace deal more difficult.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband “has been very clear that a credible deal involves Jerusalem as a shared capital,” said a spokeswoman.
“Expanding settlements on occupied land in East Jerusalem makes that deal much harder. So this decision is wrong and we oppose it,” added the Foreign Office spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres called on Tuesday for Palestinians to “show that they control their own people” before seeking UN recognition of an independent state.
Abbas meanwhile said in Cairo on Tuesday that the plans to seek recognition of a Palestinian state have the backing of Arab countries and is not a “unilateral decision.”
The rival democratically elected Hamas movement said on Tuesday it was opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state before the end of the Israeli occupation.
Israel illegally occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967.
Under international law, neither East nor West Jerusalem is considered Israel’s capital. Tel Aviv is recognised as Israel’s capital, pending a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.
East Jerusalem is considered by the international community to be illegally occupied by Israel, in contravention of several binding UN Security Council Resolutions.
In these resolutions, the United Nations Security Council has also called for no measures to be taken to change the status of Jerusalem until a final settlement is reached between the sides.
Declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is an attempt to change this status, and is thus a violation of these Security Council resolutions.
All Jewish settlements are illegal under international law because they are built on Arab land (mainly Palestinian), illegally occupied by Israel since 1967.
The settlers adhere to radical ideologies and are extremely violent to almost-defenceless Palestinians.