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Government Makes ’Deal’ with Settlers

Peacefully Evacuate Outposts and Settlement Blocs will Expand

Tuesday 11 March 2008, by Bryan Atinsky and Connie Hackbarth

The Israeli government authorized the renewed building of 750 housing units in the Jerusalem area Givat Ze’ev settlement. The Israeli Ministry of Defense has cut a deal with the Yesha Council, the representative body of the settlers, in which 18 of the 24 unauthorized settlement outposts built after 2001 will be evacuated in the coming months, in exchange for the construction of new housing units in the illegal settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Ariel, Elkana and Efrat.

According to the Israeli online news source Ynet, officials from Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s office revealed that an “agreement on the details of the plan was reached in a meeting held two weeks ago with representatives of the Yesha Council.”

In addition, on 9 March, the Israeli Housing Ministry announced that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has approved the renewal of construction of 750 new housing units in the Agan Ayelot neighborhood in the occupied West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev. Israeli Radio reports that Olmert approved this building so that the Shas political party would not leave the ruling coalition.

These moves take place despite the fact that PM Olmert recently announced that he was freezing settlement construction beyond the Green Line, including in the large settlement blocs outside of Jerusalem.

Israeli Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim stated that “The addition of hundreds of housing units is part of a policy aimed at meeting demand and keeping prices level, while addressing the demographic needs of Jerusalem. I intend to continue and work towards this policy in order to strengthen Jerusalem.”

These announcements fly in the face of Israeli and American claims of commitment to reach peace with the Palestinians by the end of 2008. The November 2007 Annapolis Agreement noted that Israel would “immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception.” Moreover, the Annapolis Agreement states that “the parties also commit to immediately implement their respective obligations under the performance-based road map,” a document that obligates Israel to “freeze all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).”

Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev explicitly, however, negated Israel’s commitment to the US-backed Road Map, announcing today that the government approval of additional settlement housing “is consistent with our long-standing position that building within the large settlement blocs, which will stay a part of Israel in any final status agreement, will continue.”

As the Annapolis Agreement declares that “the United States will monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides to the Road Map,” the United States must immediately denounce these new Israeli settlement plans and demand their complete cessation.

Instead, Israel continues to publicly and violently ignore its international legal and moral obligations toward the Palestinian people because it can. The price, so far, is cheap. Israel is not being held accountable for its actions by the international community, which refuses to employ the non-violent means available against Israeli occupation policies—such as boycott, divestment, sanctions, diplomatic action and civil society protests—and to demand that Israel uphold its obligations as a “democratic” state in the world community.

For the Palestinians sake as well as the Israelis, is time that the international community start to do just that.

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