Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Israel tightens grip on east Jerusalem

Israel has moved to further tighten its grip on east Jerusalem by approving another 1,242 new homes in one of the biggest Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.

The homes will be built in Gilo, a settlement of around 40,000 people geographically in the south of Jerusalem but east of the green line that divided Israeli and Arab territory before the 1967 Six Day War.

Jerusalem's planning and construction committee has given consent to build 942 houses immediately, with another 300 to follow once land ownership issues have been settled, the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said.

The decision is the latest in a string of announcements of new settlement building that has caused an international outcry and angered the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as their future capital.

Last week, Israel announced it would build a new settlement of 2,612 homes in Givat Hamatos and another 1,600 homes in the existing Ramat Shlomo neighbourhood.

Peace Now says Benjamin Netanyahu's government has now approved 6,600 new homes in east Jerusalem in the past week. That is separate from 3,000 new houses in various West Bank settlements and development of a contested area called E1 announced immediately after last month's United Nations' vote granting the Palestinians full observer state status.

The latest decision coincided with a fierce attack on Mr Netanyahu by an anonymous senior figure who accused the Israeli prime minister of "leading Israel towards disaster".

"Netanyahu wants to go down in history on just one issue: Iran," Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper quoted the "very-high ranking" official as saying. "He's thumbing his nose at the entire world. The Palestinians don't interest him, but that's going to blow up in all of our faces.

You can't go on a rampage and declare construction in east Jerusalem every other day when you don't have peace negotiations. The Arabs view that as the Judaization of east Jerusalem." Mr Netanyahu has declared Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital and says it is indivisible. Leading members of his Likud party are trying to get his commitment to a Palestinian state – made in a 2009 speech – dropped from its platform for next month's general election, the newspaper Haaretz reported.


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