In a move that will triple the size of its industrial park, the West Bank city of Ariel has received final approval to construct 27 new factories, city Mayor Ron Nachman told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
The park itself was first approved in 1998 and already has some 12 factories on its site, according to Nachman. The new factories will be constructed on land that had already been zoned for the park, which is located some 17 kilometers over the Green Line and across the highway (Route 5) from the Barkan Industrial Park.
Construction will take 15 months to complete, at which point the new factories, mostly for steel, aluminum, plastic and metal companies, will contribute between 1,500 to 2,000 new jobs to the area, Nachman said.
He added that approval for the project had been given to him by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, but the ministry had no comment on the matter. Neither did the Prime Minister's Office nor the Defense Ministry.
Peace Now, the non-governmental organization which monitors settlement activity, attacked the move.
"Everyday, the Annapolis process is becoming more virtual than it was before," said Peace Now executive director Yariv Oppenheimer. "This is yet another surrender of the government to the demands of the settlement leadership," said Oppenheimer.
He noted that this particular project was particularly problematic because "it is not next to the Green Line, but in a settlement in the heart of the West Bank."
"We expect that the defense minister and the whole government will keep to its commitment to freeze settlement activity" and desist from actions "that would make a two-state solution impossible to implement," said Oppenheimer.
But Nachman defended the move by stating that this park employs both Jews and Palestinians.
"I want to ask how many jobs Peace Now has created for the Palestinians?" he asked and then answered his own question. "One big zero, while I, the mayor of Ariel, I have created jobs for both Jews and Palestinians, and this is the real and true meaning of co-existence."