U.N.: Israel advancing annexation with new settlement homes

“By advancing the effective annexation of the West Bank, it undermines the chances for establishing a Palestinian state based on relevant UN resolutions, as part of a negotiated two-state solution.”

A general view picture shows houses in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, in the West Bank February 15, 2017 (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
A general view picture shows houses in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, in the West Bank February 15, 2017
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
 The United Nations and the United Kingdom warned that Israel was promoting annexation after the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria advanced plans for 2,304 new settler homes on Monday and Tuesday.
“By advancing the effective annexation of the West Bank, it undermines the chances for establishing a Palestinian state based on relevant UN resolutions, as part of a negotiated two-state solution,” US Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said.
Such activity must “cease immediately and completely,” he added.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab issued his first statement on the issue of settlement building, warning that Israel was promoting “the effective annexation of the West Bank.”
Raab also called on Israel to allow Palestinian construction in Area C – which is under Israeli military and civil control – explaining that the 600 permits Israel’s security cabinet approved last week did not fully address the needs of the 300,000 Palestinians living there.
To date, no action has been taken to get the security cabinet to act. The left-wing NGO Peace Now has reported that during the years 2009 to 2016, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in office, Israel issued only 66 permits for Palestinian building in Area C.
“The UK continues to urge the government of Israel to develop improved mechanisms that allow Palestinians to build within Area C,” Raab said.
Britain opposes the “continued demolition of Palestinian property by Israeli authorities, including in Wadi al-Hummus on 22 July,” he said, referring to the IDF demolition of 12 Palestinian structures there last month.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry strongly condemned Israel’s “illegitimate policy” regarding settlement and its “brazen breach” of international law.
The EU said that, “all settlement activity is illegal under international law. It erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace.
“The EU expects the Israeli authorities to fully meet their obligations as an occupying power under International Humanitarian Law, and to cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, of designating land for exclusive Israeli use and of denying Palestinian development,” the union said.
On Wednesday morning, Meretz Party head Nitzan Horowitz toured the West Bank, going to a new outpost next to the Mitzpe Yericho settlement that was built three months ago, called Mitzpe Ha-Torah. It is part farm and part religious seminary, said Hagit Ofran of Peace Now.
Her organization recently published a report showing that since 2012, some 32 new West Bank outposts have been established, including the one her group showed Horowitz.
During the tour, Peace Now also put up a sign by the entrance to Mitzpe Ha-Torah, stating that it was an illegal outpost.
Horowitz warned that, “construction in the settlements is rampant – even in the isolated settlements and in the illegal outposts.” He added that Netanyahu, along with United Right MKs Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich and former justice minister and party leader Ayelet Shaked, were leading Israel into the “abyss” by wanting to annex Palestinian territory – a move that would destroy any chance of a two-state solution.
The United Right has been blunt about its desire to annex Area C of the West Bank. In the last election, Netanyahu said he would apply sovereignty to the settlements, all of which are located in Area C.
The right-wing NGO Regavim asked Horowitz in response if he was a “hypocrite” or had “vision problems.” It noted that on the way to the Jewish outposts, he would have had to pass dozens of illegal Palestinian encampments erected as part of a Palestinian Authority plan to take over the area around the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.
On Monday and Tuesday the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria agreed that plans for 1,466 settler homes would be deposited, and plans for 838 homes would be validated, according to Peace Now. It also authorized three outposts.
Seventy percent of the units, according to the left-wing NGO, are for settlements considered to be isolated, located outside the route of the security barrier.
At one time Israel and the US had made a distinction between isolated settlements and settlement blocs. Isolated settlements were believed to be vulnerable to withdrawal in any future final-status agreement with the Palestinians. Israel in the past held that settlements blocs would be part of its final sovereign borders.
Under the Trump administration and the current Israeli government, no distinction is made between settlements on either side of the barrier. Earlier this week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Efrat settlement and stated his oft-repeated slogan: no settler or settlement will be uprooted on his watch.
Among the more significant projects are almost 300 units for the small, isolated ultra-Orthodox settlement of Asfar, which is located in the Gush Etzion region. About 200 of the units that were deposited are for property within the settlement itself. In addition, the council legalized the adjacent Ibei Hanahal outpost as a new neighborhood of the settlement, approving in the process 96 new homes.
The Gush Etzion Regional Council sent out a congratulatory statement, noting that the approvals were proof that settlement development was a key part of the Netanyahu government’s agenda.
Regional council head Shlomo Ne’eman congratulated the prime minister on the impressive achievement and said he hoped such development would continue. Ne’eman noted the Asfar construction in particular, which he said would more than triple the size of the small community. Its population is close to 700, according to 2016 Central Bureau of Statistics data
Peace Now condemned the moves.
“The approval of settlement plans is part of a disastrous government policy designed to prevent the possibility of peace and a two-state solution, and to annex part or all of the West Bank.”
It noted in particular the council’s approval of the Haroeh Haivri outpost as an educational institute with plans for 24 homes. Built in 2015, it is located near the illegal Bedouin herding village of Khan al-Ahmar, which the government wants to evacuate
The council also authorized the Givat Salit outpost with plans for 94 homes, but held off on approving the Brosh outpost. In addition it delayed the approval of 207 homes in the Har Bracha settlement.