Published Thursday 18/10/2012 (updated) 20/10/2012
“JERUSALEM (Reuters) — Israel on Thursday issued a detailed plan for the building of some 800 new homes on occupied land in the West Bank that is certain to attract further international condemnation of its settlement policies.
A planning committee issued a call for bids from contractors to start building 797 housing units on the western slopes of the urban settlement of Gilo, an area that Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war and later declared part of Jerusalem.
The annexation has never been recognized internationally.
Palestinians want to create a state in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
But they say Israeli settlement building around the city, such as at Gilo, which is home to 40,000 Israelis and lies between mainly Palestinian East Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Bethlehem, will cripple the viability of any future state.
Some 500,000 settlers live in territory seized in 1967.
Previous Israeli announcements and subsequent settlement building have always drawn worldwide rebukes, including from Israel’s main ally, the United States.
Hagit Ofran of the Israeli anti-settler group Peace Now, said construction could begin within a few months.
“The government could stop the process before building begins but is taking advantage of the upcoming elections in order to set facts on the ground and will make the possibility of peace with the Palestinians even harder to achieve,” she said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called elections for Jan. 22.
Mazin Qumsiyeh reports from Bethlehem
“Here we are beginning the olive harvest season and settlers and soldiers of the occupation try to destroy and restrict harvest but people do their best. Here is an article I wrote three years ago about Olives and their significance in Palestine:”
“Israel limits access to education to force Palestinians out: Press TV has interviewed Mr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, professor at Bethlehem University, Bethlehem about forced education restrictions in Palestine by the occupation.”
“In an effort to publicize Israeli violations of international law against the Palestinian people, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine held its fourth session this past weekend. The Russell Tribunal on Palestine, an independent human rights organization founded in 2009, has convened in Barcelona in 2010, London in 2010 and Cape Town in 2011 to present different aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“Israel vs. No. 2 Pencils: As countless students around the world took the SAT a week ago, Palestinians from the West Bank could not join their ranks. The October SAT exam was cancelled for students in the West Bank: The Israeli authorities held the exams sent by the College Board for weeks, not releasing the tests to AMIDEAST’s office in Ramallah….”
PLO Report: 45 Years of Israeli Occupation: What is Left of the Two State Solution
Activist: Israel begins settlement construction near Bethlehem (Maan news)
“BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities on Monday began the construction of new housing units in an illegal outpost near al-Khader village in Bethlehem, a local activist said.
Ahmad Salah, coordinator of the popular committee against the wall and settlements, told Ma’an that Israeli bulldozers began to level land in the area in preparation for construction work, despite the fact that the area was confiscated by Israel 12 years ago on the pretext of security.
Israeli forces took control of the area, called Um al-Mohamadeen, in 2000 and set up military watchtowers. Settlement expansion and land confiscation in the area prevent urban expansion in al-Khader, Salah said.
Israel plans to transform 40 military posts across the West Bank into settlements and plans to link different areas of the Efrat settlement bloc south of al-Khader, Salah added.
“We have warned several times of the real danger of settlement activities, but nobody is responding to our calls. Even farmers gave up hope,” says Salah.
Strategically, settlement construction in the al-Khader area is a continuation of Israeli plans to link the settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Efrat and Gilo, which surround Bethlehem.
In late August, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Bethlehem-area settlements, claiming that “Efrat and Gush Etzion are integral parts of greater Jerusalem,” Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post said.
“They are the southern gates of Jerusalem and will always be part of the State of Israel. We are building Efrat and Gush Etzion with enthusiasm, faith and responsibility,” he said.”