ISRAHELL ETHNIC CLEANSING: Israel pursues settlement growth

Israel pursues settlement growth

Israel has been expanding illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land for decade, and it is now emerging just how far-reaching this policy is.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Jerusalem housing committee is planning to build another 50,000 Jewish homes in occupied East Jerusalem to join the hundreds of thousands already there or in progress.

That includes 3,000 housing units in Gilo, 1,500 apartments in Har Homa and another 1,500 in the settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev.

Thousands more have been planned at Givat Hamatos, and the settlement of Ramot, while hundreds more are in the works in Armon Hanetziv, as well as Neveh Yaakov.

Jewish terrorism: Settler admits to murder, series of bomb attacks + more jewish terrorists

A resident of the West Bank settlement outpost Shvut Rachel was arrested last month for suspected murder and for his alleged role in a string of attempted murder plots, according to details of an investigation revealed on Sunday after a gag order on the case was lifted.

Yaakov “Jack” Teitel, 37, is suspected of killing two Palestinians, for rigging the package bomb which left the child of a Messianic Jew seriously wounded, for attempting to kill left-wing professor Ze’ev Sternhell, and for his alleged role in a series of warning attacks against Israel Police at the time of the Gay Pride Parades.

According to the Shin Bet and Israel Police, Teitel has confessed to most of the allegations against him.

The footage below shows a man believed to be Teitel rigging a bomb package sent to the Ortiz family, Messianic Jews living in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Teitel, a resident of the northern West Bank outpost, was born in Florida and has moved back and forth between the United States and Israel over the last two decades. In 2000, he returned to Israel to live permanently.

During a search of his home, police discovered rifles, handguns and explosive materials; they were unable, however, to find the gun which he allegedly used to kill the Palestinians.

He even apparently claimed during his investigation to involvement in the attack on a gay-lesbian youth club in Tel Aviv, in which two people were killed. The Shin Bet has said, however, that there is not sufficient evidence at this point to tie him to that attack.

Teitel was arrested on October 7 in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof, in Jerusalem, after posting signs around town praising the attack on the Tel Aviv gay club.

His posters were signed with the name ‘Shleisel,’ referring to the ultra-Orthodox man who stabbed and wounded a number of marchers during the Jerusalem pride parade a couple of years ago.

Police also found posters in his neighbourhood offering a one million shekel reward to anyone killing a member of Israel’s Peace
Now movement, that opposes West Bank settlement activity.

Teitel was arrested after a prolonged police follow-up; he was in possession of a loaded gun at the time of the arrest. He was interrogated without right to a lawyer. Deliberations over his arrest were held at a number of courts, even reaching the High Court of Justice.

During his investigation, Teitel repeatedly said that he had acted of his own accord and that nobody else was involved in his alleged crimes.

His wife, Rivka, was brought in for questioning for a few hours a little over a week ago. She reserved her right to silence. Police have said that they do not have sufficient evidence to believe that she had known of his plans, even though the majority of his weapons were discovered at their house and in the adjacent yard.

According to a senior Shin Bet source, Teitel was an “autodidact” who taught himself to use weapons and rig explosives, apparently on the Internet.

Teitel has confessed to murdering a Palestinian shepherd near Mount Hebron in 1997 and to killing an Arab taxi driver in East Jerusalem some two months later. He said that he came to Israel precisely to carry out attacks against Palestinians as revenge for suicide bombings.

Ref: Haaretz

Analysis: How many Jewish terrorists are still out there?

Teitel was not the first and joins a long list that includes Baruch Goldstein, who gunned down 29 Muslim worshipers in Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994, Eden Natan-Zada, who killed four Israeli Arabs in Shfaram ahead of the Gaza disengagement in 2005, and the Bat Ayin Underground, which was caught after planting a massive bomb next to an Arab girls school in east Jerusalem in 2002.

A senior Shin Bet official admitted Sunday that there were still many anti-Palestinian terror attacks in the West Bank, including murders, that took place over the past few years that have yet to be solved, meaning that there are likely more Jewish terrorists still at large.


Settlements are fertile ground for Jewish terror

Settling for … Settlements? (USA backs again for Israeli aparthied practice)

The Arabs have a saying for someone who’s not getting anywhere: “He’s managed to explain, after considerable strain, that water is water.” And so it is with US envoy George Mitchell: After considerable effort he’s apparently settled for a settlement freeze that involves more settlements.

A freeze turns out to have been a bad idea from the start, and no one understood just how bad it was better than Israeli attorney Michael Sfard, who has been suing the Israeli state over settlements for months. “The idea of a settlement freeze was created by people who don’t understand settlements,” Sfard says because the very raison d’être of settlements is “growth and enlarging the scope of territorial domination.”

Anyone who knows the history understands that “redeeming” the land has been at the heart of the Israeli enterprise from Day One. Just ask any Palestinian.

Sfard foresaw the mess the Obama Administration finds itself in today as it seeks to bring about a two-state solution. Speaking at an event at the Washington DC-based New America Foundation back in mid-July, he explained that any “freeze” would be undermined in two ways: through planning of settlement construction, and through settler violence.

In fulfilment of Sfard’s prediction, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just had his construction plans approved by the Israeli cabinet in advance of any announcement of a settlement freeze he may make with US envoy George Mitchell later this week, or at the United Nations General Assembly later this month. This ‘freeze’ would exclude 2,500 units under construction in East Jerusalem — and it will be temporary, if press reports are to be believed.

Who would have thought that we might one day regret the passing of Condi & Co.? After all, no one had great expectations of the Bush Administration to begin with, and certainly not after the serial devastation of Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza. Hardly anyone took Condoleezza Rice’s multiple trips to the region seriously, and the Annapolis process was seen as no more than the froth on a badly brewed cappuccino.

But the people of the region have had expectations of Obama and Mitchell, whose credibility has been dented by the months Mitchell has spent patting the Israelis into a comfortable settlement posture and squeezing the Arabs for gestures of normalization.

About the only thing that can still be said for the two-state solution is that it might save a little bit of the land of Palestine for the Palestinians. If the Obama Administration can’t convince its closest ally and largest aid recipient to freeze, let alone dismantle, its settlements then what’s the point?

Even former president Jimmy Carter has written in an Op Ed in The Washington Post that a one state solution now seems a more “likely alternative to the present debacle.”

Nonetheless, there are a few rays of hope in an otherwise gloomy landscape. One is the work of Michael Sfard himself and of Yesh Din, the group he serves as legal counsel. Yesh Din is using hitherto untapped information sources to sue the state over Israel’s illegal settlement activity. It also monitors settler violence as part of a project to protect the Palestinians living under occupation.

Sfard’s visit to Washington DC — during which he visited the Obama administration and Congressional offices — is part of a new trend of Israeli human rights organizations speaking directly to the American policy community. Sfard’s trip was sponsored by the Carter Center, whose staff realized that Israeli human rights groups were focusing their outreach on Europe because they lacked the resources to visit America.

The other hopeful trend remains the work of the Palestinian civil society, whose boycott call against Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights bears new fruit almost every day. Most recently Jane Fonda, Naomi Klein, Alice Walker, and Danny Glover joined over 50 artists to protest the Toronto International Film Festival spotlight on the city of Tel Aviv. They are not against showing Israeli films but rather are against the staging of “a propaganda campaign on behalf of … an apartheid regime.”

And then there is the Norwegian pension fund decision to divest from the Israeli company Elbit Systems for its involvement in construction on occupied Palestinian land. “We do not wish to fund companies that so directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law,” explained Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen.

If only Obama would hearken to those Nordic words. But perhaps it is premature to mourn his administration’s foray into the peace process. The tight-lipped Mitchell may yet have something up his sleeve. Otherwise, come back, Condi, at least we knew where we were.

Nadia Hijab is an independent analyst and a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies.

Ref: Counterpunch

Dubai, jewel in Israel’s sales crown

With the exception of Egypt, all Arab states officially boycott Israel, blacklist Israeli companies and ban imports of Israeli products. The same countries frequently lead the voices calling for sanctions against Israel. But sometimes life gets in the way.

Just a few weeks after the world financial crisis broke, a super-luxury hotel, the Atlantis, opened its doors in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The French chatter website of 21 November 2008 trumpeted the headline: “2000 stars at the inauguration of Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel”. It wrote:

“Dubai, Dubai, Dubai! Arab princes, flying carpets, oil, dollars… and the Atlantis Hotel! An extraordinary palace, which cost more than $1.9bn to create, celebrated its opening yesterday in high style.

“This little junket cost a trifling $38m! That’s what it took to tell the entire world about the arrival of a luxury hotel which sees itself as the planet’s most incredible palace, with its giant in-house aquarium…

“The Atlantis is at the heart of Dubai’s Palm Island, an artificial island built in the shape of a palm tree. The world’s greatest architects and designers worked on the Pharaonic project.”

Like the hotel itself, the event bore all the hallmarks of mad money climaxing a spendthrift era. You need only to walk down its vast corridors, as I did earlier this month, to realise just how foolish an exercise this is, what bad taste it represents, and of course that it’s very empty. The expected tourists vanished with the crisis.

The corridors bulge with luxury boutiques, the sort of shops which sell priceless clothes and diamond jewels. One of them is called Levant. Its display cases promote Leviev diamonds.

But just who is Leviev? Abe Hayeem, who is from Bombay, of Iraqi Jewish origin, knows. He wrote an article headlined “Boycott this Israeli settlement builder” in The Guardian of 28 April 2009. Hayeem points out that the British Foreign Office decided to cancel its rental contract for the British Embassy in Tel Aviv because the building was owned by Leviev.

Far from only selling diamonds, Leviev is busy inside the occupied territories, principally constructing a road which links the illegal settler colony of Zufim, which he owns, to Israel – part of the ongoing process of confiscating Palestinian land. His company is also active in Bil’in where, on 17 April, the Israeli army killed a peaceful protestor, Bassem Abu Rahmeh, 29. This same company now has two boutique outlets in Dubai.

Their presence in the UAE has raised eyebrows. On 30 April 2008 an article by Abbas al-Lawati in Gulf News, the English-language daily, headed “Israeli jeweller has no trade licence to open shop in Dubai”, quoted a top official denying that the UAE had ever granted Leviev a licence and saying that if an application came it would be rejected.

Gulf News followed up the story on several occasions, including one report of demos against Leviev, “Call to boycott Israeli jeweller” on 14 December 2008, also by al-Lawati.

During the Dubai Arab Media Forum meeting I attended in May I raised the issue with journalists from various Arabic-language dailies. They told me they were not allowed to reply to such questions.

At a time when Israel violates with impunity all the UN Security Council resolutions, a growing movement calls for sanctions, boycotts and disinvestment (withdrawing overseas investment from Israel and the occupied territories). It’s similar to the French campaign against Alstom and Veolia for their role in a tram project in occupied Jerusalem “Tramway à Jérusalem, mensonge à Paris”, 24 October 2007. It’s astounding, in the circumstances, that Arab countries collaborate with the very same companies which operate in the occupied territories.

France’s trade minister Christine Lagarde visited Saudi Arabia in mid-May principally to promote the bid by Alstom and the SNCF for a TGV-type fast rail link between Mecca and Media. One must hope that the Saudi authorities make it a condition of any agreement that Alstom backs out of the Jerusalem tram project.

Ref: Le MOnde


Access to water is fundamental to life and perhaps the most basic human right. For Palestinians living under occupation, it is yet another human right which is controlled by Israel. The human right to water refers to domestic needs, however by denying Palestinians access to water, the Israeli government is also denying the human right to food which incorporates water for agriculture, and the human right to sanitation.

Although it is often overlooked, the Israeli monopoly of water – already a scarce resource in the region – undermines Palestinian economic development and is a critical political issue. Water is one of the six permanent status issues to be dealt with in the negotiations between the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the Israeli Government. This conflict is about resources as well as land, and a viable Palestinian state will not be possible while Israel continues to ignore international laws and previously signed agreements regarding water with the same impunity that it ignores internationally recognised borders and previously signed agreements regarding land. Israel has denied the Palestinians the right to drill one single well in the Western Aquifer since 1967. In this way Israel ensures that the bulk of the flow continues to cross the green line into Israel, and Israel can continue to abstract most of supposedly shared water.

Palestinian water rights were recognised in Article 40 of the Oslo II Interim Agreement, bringing hopes that living standards in the Occupied Territories would improve and that water for agriculture would stimulate economic growth. According to the recent World Bank report, Assessment of Restrictions on Palestinian Water Sector Development, these hopes have “only very partially been realised”, as Gaza and parts of the West Bank suffer “chronic” water-related humanitarian crises. Problematically, while Article 40 recognised Palestinian Water Rights, it failed to define them as Israel preferred to postpone this to the final status negotiations.

The Joint Water Committee was established under Article 40 of the Olso II Interim Agreement of 1995 to manage the water resources of the West Bank. Typically, Joint Water Committees are established to manage a shared water resource and not just a portion of the resource as is the case with the Israeli-Palestinian JWC, the jurisdiction of which is limited to those water resources accessible from within the West Bank. Essentially, Israel was able to reinforce its 1967 military order placing all of the water resources of the West Bank under Israeli military control.

Under the system established by Article 40, any proposed infrastructure project or management measure within the West Bank must be approved by Israeli authorities. The World Bank report states that the way in which this has been implemented gives Israeli authorities total control over the allocation and management of West Bank water resources. Further, Israeli territorial jurisdiction over 60% of the West Bank (Area C), makes management of water resources “virtually impossible” for the Palestinian Authority.

According to the World Bank report, “fundamental asymmetries of power” prevent the JWC from functioning as a “joint” institution. The JWC is inherently flawed due to its limited jurisdiction over only those shared mountain water resources which underlie the West Bank instead of effective joint management over the entire shared resource.

The majority of the priority projects in line with Palestinian National Water Objectives have still not been realised after 14 years. Israeli projects to abstract water from the shared Mountain Aquifer are not even presented to the JWC. In some instances, Israel has taken action unilaterally, and charged the costs to the Palestinian Authority. Where sewage runs untreated towards Israel, Israeli authorities have taken to treating it and charging the costs to the Palestinian Authority, amounting to $43 million between 1996 and 2008. There is no formal billing: the Palestinian Ministry of Finance is simply informed of the decision and the charges are withheld from Palestinian tax revenue.

However, untreated waste water flows from the large Ariel settlement just 15 metres from the spring of Salfit: recently sewage flooded the spring, which is the source of Salfit water supply. Germany allocated money for a treatment plant for Salfit, but for three years Israeli authorities demanded a joint project. It was eventually approved but when work started, it was said to be close to the site of future settlements and construction was halted in 2000. A new site has been proposed, but as the new site is also in Area C, it is being held up by Israeli “planning considerations”. Since 1996, the JWC has postponed all wastewater projects proposed by the Palestinian Water Authority. In 2005, the entire Palestinian city of Qalqiliyya was flooded with sewage and waste water after the trunk line blocked, and it took three days for the army to get permission from Israel to clear the blockage. In this light, the Israeli Water Authority’s suggestion that “the Palestinians apparently prefer to let their wastewater flow into Israeli territory” (The Issue of Water Between Israel and Palestinians, Israeli Water Authority, March 2009) is unfair, if not provocative.

Records show that the Palestinian projects which have been rejected or delayed by JWC would have benefitted 1.1 million beneficiaries. This is a bare minimum: in reality almost all Palestinians have been negatively affected by Israel’s water policies. The World Bank states that in practice movement and access restrictions present a “formidable, often insuperable constraint” for Palestinians to get projects implemented: “Essentially the Israeli Water Authority has veto power, and in order to solicit approvals on vital emergency water needs, the Palestinian Authority is forced into positions that compromise its basic policy principles.”

Currently, Palestinians have access to one fifth of the resources of the Mountain Aquifer. Israel takes the rest, and overdraws the “estimated potential” by over 50% without JWC approval – almost double its share under Oslo Accords. This lowers the aquifer to the point that the shallow wells which Palestinians drilled before 1967, during Jordanian rule, now run dry. Over pumping aquifers also places the quality of the aquifer at risk. Around half of the households in the West Bank report problems in the quality of their drinking water supply, and only 31% Palestinians are connected to a sewerage network. Even those with access to a water supply network are not guaranteed supply: the infrastructure is useless without enough water in the lines. At Auja, the formerly productive Auja spring now runs dry thanks to the activity of five nearby Israeli production wells: the formerly water-abundant village must now buy back water from surrounding settlements.

As well as causing a crisis in sanitation, this has had a significant impact on the Palestinian economy. In the West Bank, average household expenditure on water is twice the globally accepted standard. Often it is the poorest Palestinians, unconnected to a water supply, who are the hardest hit: one-sixth of their household budget is spent on water costs, as Israeli restrictions on movement and access drive up the cost of tankers. The World Bank estimates these extra costs amount to $45 million annually. Further, the less entitlement Palestinians are permitted to their existing water resources, the more they must spend developing new ones.

The effect of Israel’s monopoly of the water supply has severely undermined the Palestinian economy by impeding the development of the water-reliant agricultural industry, a key sector for the revival of the Palestinian economy. This has particularly affected the irrigated agriculture which already suffers from movement restrictions: in the West Bank produce has to contend with 640 checkpoints and unpredictable closures, the cost of which must be passed on to the consumer. The World Bank estimates that the cost to the economy of foregone opportunity in irrigated agriculture in the West Bank could be as high as $480 million annually, and 110,000 jobs. In Gaza, aside from the border closures which deny access to markets, with water supply at crisis levels the potentially very profitable agricultural industry simply cannot develop. Damage to infrastructure during the war on Gaza has only compounded this, in yet another violation of both the Geneva Convention, and the Joint Declaration for Keeping Water Infrastructure out of the Cycle of Violence, agreed by the JWC in January 2001. The continued siege on Gaza has prevented the reconstruction of its water infrastructure.

Water scarcity in the Occupied Territories is not induced by natural conditions alone: it is a man-made crisis created by Israel, and imposed on the Palestinians. A 2002 report commissioned by the Israel Knesset entitled ’Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry on the Israeli Water Sector’, concludes that “(t)he water crisis was not brought about only by climatic changes that caused a fall in the quantity of rain, nor even by the steep rise in population and its standards of living in the last 50 years. The astounding failure is primarily man-made”.

The issue of water cannot be postponed any longer, and must be at the top of the list as a new round of peace talks is initiated. A recent study by the Palestinian Economic Research Institute (MAS) estimating future water needs in Palestine until 2020 provides guidelines which can be used in negotiations with Israel. The official PLO position is inline with International Water Law and the principle of “Equitable and Reasonable Utilisation”. However the World Bank report calls for minimal Water Rights to be granted to Palestinians, and Israel has rejected even these.

Given its well-documented disregard for international law it is unsurprising that, in its report “The Issue of Water Between Israel and Palestinians” released in March, the Israel Water Authority (IWA) stressed that the sides should focus less on “legal solutions” and “legal aspects”. Likewise, considering that Israeli water availability is more than six times greater per capita than water availability for Palestinians, IWA’s assertion in the same report that water agreements between countries are “not a question of principles” is also unsurprising.

Israeli discrimination in the allocation of water is part of the structural oppression of an occupied people, perpetuating a system of apartheid, an unsustainable economy and prohibiting any possibility of a viable Palestinian state. Water is a permanent status, and has therefore been negotiated over in OSLO, OSLO II, Camp David, Taba and Annapolis, yet water-related humanitarian crises remain chronic in Gaza and in parts of the West Bank. It is vital that Israel does not continue to postpone the issue of water rights for Palestinians in the next round of peace talks, however Palestinian people cannot wait for peace to be granted basic human rights and access to their own water.

ref. Palestine monitor

Also read: ISRAEL- Don’t make the desert bloom

Unilever to sell stake in plant based in West Bank settlement

The food and soap manufacturing multinational Unilever has announced that it will divest from an Israeli factory in a Jewish settlement illegally built on land confiscated from Palestinians.

Unilever, which makes household staples such as Sunsilk shampoo, Surf washing powder and Vaseline, said it would sell its 51% stake in the Beigel & Beigel factory in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

The UK and Dutch-owned multinational has followed Harrods department store – which cleared its shelves of Beigel & Beigel products, such as pretzels, in August – and a campaign by Britain to crack down on Israeli settlement businesses that are allegedly dodging EU import taxes.

Unilever’s announcement also came ahead of a report on its investment in the occupied territories by United Civilians for Peace, a Dutch human rights group.

UCP said the decision of Unilever, which defied the international boycott against South Africa during the apartheid era, showed that the firm was “serious” about international law and social responsibility.

But Unilever Israel, which bought half of Beigel & Beigel in 2001, said the move was strategic, not ethical.

“This decision has been taken with reluctance after a long period of analysis and review,” it said.

“Following the divestment in recent years of a number of non-core businesses … the decision has been reached to divest of its interests in the bakery business and will therefore seek to find a buyer for Unilever’s share in the Beigel & Beigel partnership,” the company said in a statement.

Ariel is one of three large Israeli settlement blocs that penetrate and separate northern and southern parts of the West Bank. It is surrounded by a network of roads that Palestinians are forbidden to use without special permission.

The settlement is built on land that Israel conquered in the 1967 Six Day war. According to UCP, the land for the Beigel & Beigel factory, in Ariel’s Barkan industrial estate, was confiscated from the surrounding Palestinian villages in 1981 by a Israeli military order.

“International law prohibits the confiscation of occupied land not for military purposes,” the UCP report says.

It also claims that Unilever is in effect supporting Ariel because it pays taxes to the Shomron regional council, which provides services such as rubbish disposal to Barkan. In return, Unilever receives, via Beigel & Beigel, some of the “generous” subsidies that Israel pays companies to produce in settlements.

Companies that operate in settlements also benefit from employing cheap Palestinian labour, the report says.

At Beigel & Beigel, 45% of the 140 workers are Palestinians from the surrounding villages whose land was confiscated for the construction. Most of them work on the assembly line operating machines and contrary to Unilever’s own labour standards, they are not paid the Israeli minimum wage, the report claims.

Many workers are paid to work 46.5 hours a week but they often work 50 hours with no compensation. One worker, who must pass through a checkpoint gate to go home after work, told UCP that he is often unable to return to his village.

Ref: Guardian

Papers detail settlers’ West Bank land grab

West Bank settlements have expanded their jurisdictions by taking control of private Palestinian land and allocating it to settlers. The land takeover – which the Civil Administration calls “theft” – has occured in an orderly manner, without any official authorization.

The method of taking over land is being publicized for the first time, based on testimony from a hearing on an appeal filed by a Kedumim resident, Michael Lesence, against a Civil Administration order to vacate 35 dunams (almost 9 acres) near the Mitzpe Yishai neighborhood of the settlement. Official records show the land as belonging to Palestinians from Kafr Qaddum.

Lesence’s lawyer, Doron Nir Zvi, admitted at the hearing that the land in question was private Palestinian property. However, Lesence claims ownership on the grounds that he has been working the land for more than a decade, after he received it in an orderly procedure, complete with a signed agreement, from the heads of the Kedumim local council.

Affidavits from Civil Administration officials stated that Lesence began cultivating the land only in the past six months.

Attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zecharia, who represent the Palestinian landowners on behalf of Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights, insist their clients continued to work the land, and that the army and settlers from Kedumim are denying their access to it.

Kedumim residents who testified before the board said that the Palestinian have no problem reaching their lands. However, a visit to the area reveals a different picture: The guard at Mitzpe Yishai announced that “it is forbidden to allow Arabs in” to the lands abutting the neighborhood. After the Palestinians approached their property on foot, an army patrol arrived and moved them off. When the commander was told they have Civil Administration documents proving they own the land, the commander replied: “Documents don’t interest me.”

The land-takeover method was developed in Kedumim and neighboring settlements during the mid-1990s, after the Oslo Accords, and continues to this day.

Zeev Mushinsky, the “land coordinator” at the Kedumim local council, testified as to how it works: Council employees, Mushinsky in this case, would map the “abandoned lands” around the settlements, even if they were outside the council’s jurisdiction, with the aim of taking them over. The council would “allocate” the lands to settlers, who would sign an official form stating that they have no ownership claim on the m, and that the council is entitled to evict them whenever it sees fit, in return for compensating them solely for their investment in cultivating the land.

Kedumim’s former security chief, Michael Bar-Neder, testified that the land “allocation” was followed by an effort to expand the settlement. Bar-Neder said that once the settlers seized the lands, an application would be made to the military commander to declare them state-owned, since under the law covering the West Bank, anyone who does not cultivate his land for three years forfeits ownership of it.

Ref. Haaretz

Vice PM: Ofra settlement homes built on private Palestinian land

All 450 homes in Ofra, the “mother of settlements” in Samaria, were built on privately owned Palestinian land, Vice Premier Haim Ramon said during a session at the Knesset State Control Committee two months ago.

This is the first time such a senior government source has admitted in an official forum that the first settlement in Samaria was built on private Palestinian land.

In response to an inquiry by Haaretz, Ramon’s office said the vice premier’s statements were made based on information from the defense establishment.

Present at the committee session were some of the West Bank local council heads, including the director of the Yesha Council of settlements, Pinhas Wallerstein, one of the first people to move to Ofra. None of the guests challenged Ramon’s statements regarding the property ownership.

Sources involved in settlement affairs said Monday that even though Peace Now has argued that Ofra is built mostly on private land, Ramon’s official statement has both political and legal implications. This may include compensation demands by the Palestinian property owners.

Wallerstein responded Monday that to the best of his knowledge, the facts are in line with Ramon’s statements. He recalled that Ofra began as a work camp in 1975, established with the authorization of Shimon Peres, then defense minister in the first Yitzhak Rabin government, on the grounds of a former Jordanian military camp.

Peres even participated in planting a tree in the new settlement.

According to the transcript of the February 25 meeting, which addressed the outposts and the implementation of the Sasson Report, committee chairman MK Zevulun Orlev asked Ramon: “To add 20 more homes in Ofra has political implications? I want to understand the point.” Ramon responded: “From many standpoints Ofra is not a good example for you, because all of it is build on private Arab land, private Palestinian property.”

Ramon said the pressure to enlarge Ofra and other settlements does not stem from a housing shortage, but rather is an attempt to undermine any chance of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.

“Construction in Judea and Samaria, especially the illegal outposts, stems from a wish to establish political facts that will make it difficult for the Israeli governments to adopt a policy different from that of the persons building the illegal outposts. They declare this, and therefore this construction has an open political and ideological nature. People say, we will build without permission so that if the majority in Israel wants to return part of this territory [to the Palestinians], it will be impossible or it will be much more difficult,” Ramon said.

Ramon, who chairs the ministerial committee on implementing the outpost report, added, “If it were up to me, everything would be allowed within the settlement blocks and nothing would be permitted beyond those [areas], and anything inside the fence would be approved and everything outside the fence not only would not be authorized, but I would be content if it were evacuated.”

Eitan Broshi, an aide to the defense minister on settlement matters, said there are about 100 illegal outposts where 7,000 people live.

He told the State Control Committee that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had sent former Defense Minister Amir Peretz a letter listing which outposts should be evacuated first. Broshi said on February 25 that “in the coming weeks,” there would be agreement with the Yesha leadership on the fate of 26 illegal outposts.

Ref: Haaretz

PM okays 750 new settlement homes, says fits state policy

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has approved the renewed construction of hundreds of an estimated 750 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Givat Ze’ev near Jerusalem, the Housing Ministry said Sunday.

The project approved for the Agan Ayelot neighborhood of Givat Ze’ev drew criticism from the Palestinian Authority over Israel’s commitment to the peace process.

The prime minister’s spokesman said the project was in line with the state’s current policy on construction in existing settlements.

“The project was approved by previous governments, and Olmert approved its resumption because it meshes with government policy,” he said.

“It 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,” Regev said. “Construction outside the settlement blocs has been frozen.”

Boim said Sunday 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.”

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the decision to build new housing
in Givat Zeev raised doubts about Israel’s commitment to peace talks.

“It seems to me the Israelis are determined to put a stick in the wheel of negotiations,” he said. “It will undermine the U.S. effort to revive the negotiations.”

He noted the decision came just days before a U.S. envoy, Lt. Gen. William Fraser III, arrives in the region for his first joint meeting with Israelis and Palestinians. President George W. Bush appointed Fraser in January to monitor implementation of the U.S.-backed road map peace plan – which among other things calls on Israel to freeze all settlement activity and the Palestinians to disarm militants.

The Housing Ministry and Israel Lands Administration (ILA) started marketing lots for the housing units in 1999, but stopped near the end of 2000 after the eruption of the Second Intifada.

As a result of high demand for the housing, along with the relative calm in the security situation, the contractors who had won tenders to develop the project had asked the Housing Ministry to allow them to renew construction.

Israel Radio reported that Shas, a key partner in the government coalition, had threatened to bolt the government unless the construction was approved.

Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim held numerous meetings regarding the contractors’ request, including with Olmert. Following the Har Homa construction a few moths ago, Olmert had asked Boim to update him regarding similar projects, in order to make decisions and strategize how to explain them to the international community.

Olmert and Boim approved the renewal of construction in Givat Ze’ev, and in the first stage of the project 200 housing units will be build.

Ref: Haaretz

A visit to a past of hatred & Zionism