Netanyahu's Threat to 'Build in All of Jerusalem' Could Trigger Palestinian 'Explosion'
October 28, 2014
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Aron Heller / Associated Press & The National
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved plans to construct 1,060 new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem. These are just the first planned expansions. Palestinian officials warn the move could fuel an "explosion" of violence in the city, where unrest is already growing after last week's crackdowns on the Arab population. The US State Department also criticized the move, saying it was incompatible with Israel's claims of wanting to live in peace.
Netanyahu Approves 1,060 New Settlement Units in East Jerusalem
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(October 27, 2014) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved plans to construct 1,060 new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem today, according to officials in the prime minister's office.
The construction will include 400 units in Har Homa, in the city's southeast, and 660 in Ramat Shlomo, in the northwest corner. These are just the first planned expansions in Ramat Shlomo, where the government is also considering 1,600 new apartments.
Palestinian officials were predictably critical of the move, warning it could fuel an "explosion" of violence in the city, where unrest is already growing after last week's crackdowns on the Arab population. The US State Department also criticized the move, saying it was incompatible with Israel's claims of wanting to live in peace.
Netanyahu was defiant, however, citing the annexation of East Jerusalem and insisting the city was "eternally" part of the Israeli capital, likening it to London or Paris, and insisting Israeli Jews could build wherever they please in metro Jerusalem, occupied or not.
Premier: Israel Will Build in All of Jerusalem
Aron Heller / Associated Press
JERUSALEM (October 27, 2014) -- Israel's prime minister pledged Monday to keep building in east Jerusalem, despite stiff international criticism and recent rising tensions between Jews and Arabs in the city.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government said it was advancing construction plans to build about 1,000 housing units in east Jerusalem, the part of the city the Palestinians demand for their future state.
Speaking to parliament, Netanyahu defended the stance saying there was a wide consensus in Israel to continue building throughout the city, just as every Israeli government has done since Israel captured east Jerusalem in 1967.
"Even the Palestinians know that these places will stay in Israeli sovereignty under any agreement," he said. "The French build in Paris, the English build in London and the Israelis build in Jerusalem. To come and tell Jews not to live in Jerusalem -- why?"
East Jerusalem is home to the city's most sensitive Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites. Israel says the whole city will forever be its capital, citing historical, religious and security reasons. The international community, including the United States, does not recognize Israel's annexation of the eastern sector of Jerusalem.
The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as their future capital and oppose any Israeli construction there. Palestinian protesters have been clashing regularly with Israeli security forces in east Jerusalem for months, and violence has particularly risen in recent days at a key Jerusalem holy site.
In a bid to bolster claims in Jerusalem, the Palestinian prime minister paid a rare visit to the Dome of the Rock Monday. At the shrine on a hilltop compound revered by both Jews and Muslims, Rami Hamdallah declared that "there will not be a Palestinian state without east Jerusalem as its capital."
The visit was coordinated with Israeli security and passed without incident.
Netanyahu has accused Islamic elements and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting violence by spreading rumors about a pending change of status atop the sensitive site. He says there is no truth to the rumors.
Netanyahu did, however, stand behind the construction plans for Jewish areas in the eastern part of the city.
A government official briefed on the latest construction plans said the building would take place in Har Homa and Ramat Shlomo, two sprawling areas that are already well developed. He said the project would also include new infrastructure in the West Bank.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the plan is not yet official, would not say when construction would begin. Netanyahu has been under heavy pressure from the U.S. and other Western allies not to expand settlement construction, and the latest pledge appeared to be aimed in part at appeasing hawkish coalition partners at a time when his government is under internal duress.
Still, the housing announcement could flare already soaring tensions in east Jerusalem.
Tensions have been high since June, when three Israeli teenagers were abducted and killed by Palestinian militants in the West Bank. Israeli extremists retaliated by abducting and killing a Palestinian teenager in east Jerusalem, sparking riots. The abductions set off a chain of events that led to the 50-day Gaza war.
Last week, a Palestinian drove his car into a Jerusalem train station, killing a three-month-old Israeli-American baby girl, Chaya Zissel Brauna, and wounding several other people. On Sunday, a 22-year-old Ecuadorean woman, Karen Yemima Mosquera, also died of her wounds sustained in that attack.
The car's driver, identified as Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, was a Palestinian from east Jerusalem who had served time in prison for militant activities. He was shot by police as he tried to run away and later died from his wounds.
In a related development, Israel's Channel 10 TV reported Monday that another contentious building plan announced during Netanyahu's visit to Washington several weeks ago was now moving forward with the marketing of apartments in Givat Hamatos. The plan still has several hurdles to clear and actual construction is still years away.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S was "deeply concerned by the reports" from Israel.
"We view settlement activity as illegitimate and unequivocally oppose unilateral steps that prejudge the future of Jerusalem," she said.
Palestinians Warn of 'Explosion' over Israel's 1,000 New Settler Homes
RAMALLAH (October 27, 2014) -- Palestinians warned on Monday of an "explosion" of violence in response to Israel's plan to build more than 1,000 new homes for settlers in annexed East Jerusalem.
The plans to move ahead with the units could flare already soaring tensions in East Jerusalem, which has been the scene of violent unrest for months, including near-nightly clashes between police and Palestinian youths.
"Such unilateral acts will lead to an explosion," said Jibril Rajoub, a leader in the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
The EU said on Monday it was seeking Israeli clarification of its plans, voicing new concern about the peace process.
An official at Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said plans for the new homes would move forward in Har Homa and Ramat Shlomo, two Jewish settlement neighbourhoods.
Mr. Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina slammed the move as a "dangerous escalation" that had the potential to create an "earthquake" in the region.
The chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the new construction would push the Palestinian leadership to "speed up" plans to approach the UN Security Council and to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).
"Everything Netanyahu's government is doing are war crimes which must be tried according to international law," he said, calling on Washington to "rethink its biased position" towards Israel.
He also urged the US administration "not to oppose" Palestinian plans to submit a resolution to the Security Council calling for an end to the Israeli occupation within two years.
Should the initiative be thwarted by a likely US veto, the Palestinians have pledged to join the ICC, where they could sue Israeli officials for war crimes -- a move that Rajoub said could come "within a matter of weeks".
"We will not give in to any pressure -- neither American pressure nor to Mr. Netanyahu's threats. We will go to the ICC. We have already made our mind up," Mr. Rajoub said.
"If hope is diminishing of coming up with a [Security Council] resolution, then we have no other choice."
He said it would be a mistake to expect the Palestinians to simply ignore Israel's actions in East Jerusalem.
"Mr. Netanyahu should not expect a white flag from the Palestinian people."
Israel seized East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.
Israel, regarding Jerusalem as its undivided capital, does not view construction in the eastern sector as settlement building.
But such moves infuriate the Palestinians who want East Jerusalem as capital of their future state.
The move also drew criticism from within Mr. Netanyahu's coalition government.
Israel's finance minister, Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party supports the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a final peace agreement, objected to the deal.
"This plan will lead to a serious crisis in Israel-US relations and will harm Israel's standing in the world," Mr. Lapid said.
There was no public pledge to actually erect the 1,000 homes, and Pepe Alalu, a left-wing member of the Jerusalem municipality's planning and housing committee, said the proposed projects were not new.
"The plans have existed for a long time," Mr. Alalu said, adding that no building permits had been issued.
Palestinian-Israeli violence has been on the rise since since June, when three Israeli teenagers were abducted and killed by Palestinian militants in the West Bank.
Israeli extremists retaliated by abducting and killing a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem, sparking riots. The abductions set off a series of events that led to the 50-day Gaza war.
Last week, a Palestinian drove his car into a Jerusalem train station, killing a three-month-old Israeli-American girl, and wounding several other people.
On Sunday, a 22-year-old Ecuadorean woman also died of her wounds sustained in that attack.
The car's driver, identified as Abdel Rahman Al Shaludi, was a Palestinian from East Jerusalem who had served time in prison for militant activities.
He was shot by police as he tried to run away and later died from his wounds.
The last few months have also seen clashes at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site between Palestinians and Israeli police, adding to the tensions.
Mr. Netanyahu also on Monday ordered officials to speed up legislation designed to quash the months of violence, including punishing the parents of minors who take part in disturbances.
He convened security and justice officials to discuss how to quell the unrest, his office said.
Possible steps include tougher penalties for stone-throwing and financial penalties for the parents of minors involved.
"The prime minister instructed that a proposed law to make the punishment for stone-throwing more severe be expedited as quickly as possible."
Agence France-Presse with additional reporting by Reuters and Bloomberg
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