Watchdog: Israel ups east J'lem activity

Report cites planned construction in Jewish neighborhoods, destruction of Palestinian homes.

Har Homa 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Har Homa 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Unilateral Israeli activity in east Jerusalem has increased in the four months since the Annapolis peace conference, diminishing chances for a peace settlement with the Palestinians, an Israeli watchdog group that advocates Palestinian rights in the city said Sunday. "Instead of being used as a catalyst for a political agreement, the Annapolis summit has become a starting point for unilateral Israeli actions in east Jerusalem," the Ir Amim organization said in a report released Sunday. The report cites the planned or approved construction of thousands of Israeli apartments in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, the scheduled opening of a new Israeli police station in the West Bank in the coming weeks, and the destruction of illegally constructed houses belonging to 14 Palestinian families in east Jerusalem as among the major unilateral measures Israel has taken in the east of the city. "Building thousands of Jewish housing units in east Jerusalem contradicts the very statements about compromises over Jerusalem," the report states. "Opportunistic building to create facts on the ground cannot occur alongside serious negotiations about the future of this very land." Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that construction in Jerusalem, as well as in the major West Bank population centers - which Israel plans to retain as part of any final peace agreement with the Palestinians - are "not in the same status" as building elsewhere in the West Bank, where officially a freeze on construction is in force. Israel differentiates between building in Jerusalem and building in the West Bank, but Ir Amim, like the international community, does not distinguish between construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, and views both as settlement activity. The organization, which advocates dividing Jerusalem among the Israelis and the Palestinians, also criticizes the Knesset Finance Committee for approving the allocation of another NIS 15 million towards security for Jewish residents in east Jerusalem, bringing the total to NIS 47m. per year. The report does not state that the sum in question is also used for security at several tourist sites in east Jerusalem, such as the Western Wall Tunnels. "In light of the all of these unilateral steps being implemented at an increasing pace, we are nearing the time when even if the question of Jerusalem is discussed, it will no longer be possible to come to an agreement over the city," the report says.