Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Palestinian Authority has called on the United Nations Security Council to act against Israeli settlement building, in the wake of the Jerusalem Municipality’s decision to advance 770 new Jewish homes in its Gilo neighborhood, which is located over the Green Line.
“This is yet another opportunity for the international community to show its real commitment for the two-state solution, and to take all needed action in order to have Israel fully cease settlement construction in the occupied state of Palestine,” said PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat.
“We have asked the State of Egypt and the leaders of Arab countries during our recent visit to call for an urgent meeting of the Arab Quartet, in order to submit a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council to halt settlement expansion.”
Israel maintains that Jerusalem would remain its united capital in any final status agreement with the Palestinians for a two-state solution. As such, it argues that it has a right to build homes for its residents in all areas of the city.
“We won’t lend a hand to a freeze of Jewish building in Israel’s capital,” said the Jerusalem municipality.
“Discrimination based on religion, race and sex would be illegal in any other civilized country.”
It added that building for Jews and Arabs is advanced everywhere in the capital based on construction laws and the city’s master zoning plan, and that such construction is important to ensure the city’s future by providing housing for young couples.
The plan for what is known as Gilo’s southern slope was submitted on Thursday before the Jerusalem District and Planning Committee, which means that there is now a 60-day objection period.
Initial approval for the project was given in 2012, as the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status by recognizing it as a non-member state, rather than an observer mission.
The municipality said that depositing the plans was simply a technical action that followed from that initial 2012 approval.
According to the non-governmental group Ir Amim, the project if approved would help solidify Israel’s hold on the southwest perimeter of the capital, which abuts both the Palestinian city of Bethlehem and the Gush Etzion area of the West Bank.
The municipality is already building 797 new homes on Gilo’s western slope, near the site slated for the new 770 unit project.
Palestinians have argued that Israeli actions in that end of the city is creating a wedge that is isolating Bethlehem from Israeli- Arab neighborhoods of the city and the surrounding Palestinian villages.
Such a wedge, the Palestinians have claimed, would make it difficult to enact a two-state solution that places east Jerusalem within the boundaries of a Palestinian state.
Gilo is located near the Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa, and the location of what will be the new Jewish neighborhood of Givat Hamatos.
“While Israeli ministers complain about a ‘building freeze,’ Israel continues its policy of one-sided actions that complicate and distance the possibility for a two-state solution,” said Ir Amim.
“The past year makes it clear that the peace and security which Israelis deserve require a totally different policy.”
Erekat said that “Israeli settlement construction in general, and in and around Occupied East Jerusalem in particular, is part of Israel’s political decision to bury the two-state solution by consolidating its illegal occupation and apartheid regime over the Palestinian people.”
The UN condemned the Gilo project, and said it too was concerned by its impact on the diplomatic process.
“I reiterate that settlements are illegal under international law, and urge the government of Israel to cease and reverse such decisions,” said Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator to the Middle East peace process.
He noted that earlier this month the Quartet — composed of the United States, Russia, the UN and the European Union — had issued a report in which it called on Israel to stop such building.
“Continuing on the current trajectory entrenches a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations of both peoples,” he added.
Mladenov said he was also worried about reports that settlers were attempting to rebuild an outpost in the Kiryat Arba settlement, known as Mitzpe Avichai.
The two projects, he said, “come against the backdrop of statements by some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state or calls for the full annexation of the West Bank. Such moves raise legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions.”