Israeli Minister of Housing announces tenders for construction projects in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
Defying criticism at home and abroad of its announcement that it will build 1500 units of settler housing in occupied territory to punish the Palestinian Authority for forming a government backed by the militant Hamas group, Israel has said that it will advance plans for another 1800 units of such buildings next week.
The plan to hold a meeting next week “to move ahead plans” for more settler housing was confirmed to The Independent by Guy Inbar, a spokesman for military administrators. It came only hours after the Israeli Minister of Housing, Uri Ariel, announced tenders for the West Bank and the Ramat Shlomo settlement in occupied and annexed East Jerusalem, terming this “an appropriate Zionist response to the establishment of the Palestinian terror government.” It was the first issuing of tenders since the collapse of the peace process more than a month ago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had slapped a moratorium on new tenders, apparently to avoid attracting further blame for the demise of the talks. But that is now over. Mr Ariel said the tenders were “just the beginning”
Palestinian leaders said they would not remain quiet over the settlement expansion and spoke of using their non-member state status at the UN to hold Israel accountable for violating international law. Settlement contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention’s ban on an occupying power settling its nationals in the occupied territory.
US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro criticised the building plans and within Israel, the justice minister, Tzipi Livni, who was also chief negotiator with the Palestinians, predicted they would backfire. “This is a diplomatic mistake that will only make it more difficult for us to mobilise world opinion against Hamas.”
Other Israeli leaders, however, blamed the international community for purportedly being duped by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and by Hamas to believe the Palestinian government is merely one of technocrats rather than reflecting Hamas’s espousal of Israel’s destruction. “The terrorist organisations are trying to dress themselves up as civilised and sane but even if a snake wears a fashionable modern suit it will still remain a snake,” cabinet minister Uzi Landau told Israel Radio.
The United States, European Union and United Nations have all made clear they will deal with the new Palestinian government that was sworn in on Monday after its ministers were chosen in consultation with Hamas as part of a Palestinian national unity pact. The government’s main task is to prepare for legislative and presidential elections but Israel has said it will thwart any effort to hold balloting in East Jerusalem.