human rights watch 88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On the final day before construction was to resume in West Bank Jewish
settlements, the New York-based Human Rights Watch organization issued a
last-minute appeal to the Israeli government to institutionalize the building
moratorium in the settlements.
“Israel should make permanent and total
the partial ‘freeze’ on construction in the West Bank Jewish settlements,” the
organization said in a press release on Sunday.
“Israel’s construction of
settlements and their infrastructure violates its obligations as an occupying
power and the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank, including unjustly
limiting their ability to build homes and access their lands.”
figures published recently by Peace Now, HRW pointed out that Israeli planning
authorities have approved plans allowing for the construction of 13,000 new
housing units in the settlements, including at least 2,066 on which preparatory
work has begun or for which municipal authorities have already issued building
In Betar Illit, for example, 150 housing units are ready for
immediate construction. HRW pointed out that the town of about 35,000
inhabitants overlooks the Palestinian village of Nahalin, which has a population
The human rights organization charged that while Betar Illit
has continued to develop since its establishment, Israeli restrictions have
prevented Nahalin from expanding for the last 15 years. The government, it
added, has provided no space to accommodate the growth of Nahalin’s population
and need for new housing.
According to the Oslo Agreements, Palestinians
living in Area C of the West Bank (which is under full Israeli security and
administrative control) may only build new houses within the area that was
already built up in 1995.
Only Israeli authorities can permit Palestinian
construction in the agricultural areas belonging to the villagers.
quoted Nahalin residents who charged that there is hardly any land for
construction inside the built-up area of the village, and Israeli authorities
refuse to grant permits in the areas beyond.
“We hear repeatedly from
Israeli leaders about the ‘natural growth’ needs of Israeli settlers on occupied
territory, but not a word about the virtual refusal to accommodate the
natural-growth needs of the Palestinians in the area,” charged Sarah Leah
Whitson, HRW Middle East director.
Furthermore, the organization charged,
while the Israeli government claims that it needs to build to accommodate
natural growth in the settlements, the settler population grew by 5 percent in
2008, while the population inside Israel grew by 1.8%. Peace Now estimated that
“immigrants” to the West Bank accounted for 37% of settlement growth in 2007.