Israel promotes over 2,000 settler units prior to Biden inauguration

Israel to EU: Givat Hamatos is not a settlement

HOUSES in the Beit Safafa neighborhood of Jerusalem, near Givat Hamatos. (photo credit: LIOR MIZRAHI/FLASH90)
HOUSES in the Beit Safafa neighborhood of Jerusalem, near Givat Hamatos.
(photo credit: LIOR MIZRAHI/FLASH90)
Israel advanced settler homes and Jewish east Jerusalem building projects in the final 24 hours prior to Wednesday’s inauguration of US President Joe Biden.
Mere hours before Biden took office, Israel awarded contracts for the controversial east Jerusalem Jewish housing project in Givat Hamatos.
Tuesday it also announced tenders for 2,112 homes in seven settlements and another 460 units slated for the east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze’ev.
Biden is expected to oppose US settlement building and the issue is expected to be a tension point between Israel and his administration.
At his confirmation hearing Tuesday, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state Antony (Tony) Blinken said it was important to maintain the option to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“What would be important is to make sure that neither party takes steps that make the already difficult proposition [of arriving at a two-state solution] even more challenging.”
Certainly, he said, both Israelis and Palestinians should “avoid unilateral actions.”
The term “unilateral action” is often used to describe settlement activity.
Israel’s actions with regard to the settlements were seen by left-wing NGOs as a direct challenge to Biden on the issue of settlements.
“Our out-of-touch government leadership continues to press on with its mad scramble to promote as much settlement activity as possible until the last minutes before the change of the administration in Washington,” Peace Now said.
“By doing so, Netanyahu is signaling to the incoming President that he has no intention of giving the new chapter in US-Israel relations even one day of grace, nor serious thought to how to plausibly resolve our conflict with the Palestinians,” it added.
The tenders issued by the Construction and Housing Ministry and the Lands Authority, mark one of the last bureaucratic phases before ground is broken for new homes. The projects listed were previously approved and reported.
The fact that contracts have been awarded to the Givat Hamatos project, means that work can soon commence on the homes which will be located at a critical juncture on the edge of Jerusalem near the West Bank Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
Israel defended its settlement activity in a meeting held Tuesday in Jerusalem between Deputy Director-General for Europe Anna Azari and officials from 17 European countries.
She pushed back at the European branding of Givat Hamatos as a settlement stating that such language was “unfounded.”
Azari retorted that “Givat Hamatos is part of the city of Jerusalem.”
To claim that construction in Israel’s capital is akin to settlement activity is unfounded, she said.
Such European focus on criticizing Israel for Jewish construction does not contribute to resolving the conflict, she added.
Azari asked the Europeans to encourage the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
She also spoke to them about Europe’s failure to respond to Iran’s statement that it would increase the enrichment of uranium up to 20% more.
Europe believes that Biden’s entry into the White House provides a new window of opportunity to resume Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which have been frozen for the last seven years. It has therefore stiffened its opposition to settlement activity.
On Sunday, Israel’s Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria advanced plans for 792 settler homes.
Netanyahu had also hoped to issue a government declaration of intent to legalize 46 West Bank outposts prior to Biden’s inauguration. Alternative Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz blocked him from bringing the matter to the government.
The Yesha Council, the Young Settlements Forum and the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus had manned a protest tent outside Netanyahu’s office for the last three weeks. A number of activists and settler leaders had also gone on a hunger strike.
Now that Biden is installed in office, they are expected to fold up the tents and end this particular phase of the campaign.