New construction efforts planned by the Israeli government for the West Bank have angered Palestinians and left the US State Department concerned as to what the consequences will be in terms of Israel/Palestine peace negotiations.
After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced the construction of 300 housing units to be built in Beit El, Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Attias has compounded these plans, adding a further 551 housing units to various parts of the West Bank, including Efrat, Maaleh, Adumim, Adam, Ariel and Kiryat Arba.
The small-scale construction boom comes in response to the government’s decision to remove five illegal buildings in the outpost of Givat Ulpana. The High Court of Justice has found that the buildings were constructed on private Palestinian land and has called for their removal on July 1.
The emphasis on ‘removal’ of the buildings is due to Netanyahu’s plans of physically moving the illegal buildings from their foundations and repositioning them in Beit El. In so doing, he hopes to please Palestinians and avoid destroying their homes completely while upholding the law.
“Israel is a democracy that upholds the law, and as Prime Minister I am obligated to preserve the law and preserve the settlements, and I say here that there is no contradiction between the two,” says Netanyahu. “The plan that I am laying out today is what will strengthen the settlements.”
It has been reported by foreign press agents that the Palestinians have not been so easily placated by the development of new buildings and have instead refused further peace talks until Israel stops expanding settlements.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterates these sentiments.
“This is a very grave development, this undermines all efforts to revive the peace making between the two sides,” says Erekat.
The developments will go ahead as planned, with or without Palestinian support.