Israel reportedly revives plan for 10,000 settlement units in Jerusalem area
Israel’s Channel 10 revealed that the Israeli Ministry of Construction and Housing was planning on bringing back a plan to build thousands of homes in the illegal Atarot settlement area in the occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem, years after it had been shelved due to opposition by then-US President Barack Obama.
The news channel said that the plan would be made public on May 23, the day during which Israel marks its annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the new settlement would be located in an area of the Atarot Airport, which has not been in use since 2001, near the Palestinian village of Qalandiya and Qalandiya refugee camp.
While Haaretz reported that the settlement would be dedicated to housing ultra-Orthodox Jewish Israelis, it added that leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community had expressed their opposition to its creation in that area due to its distance from the center of Jerusalem, and its proximity to Palestinians and Israel’s illegal separation wall.
A spokesperson for the Jerusalem municipality told Ma’an that it was “currently reviewing the issue,” and that “no decision yet has been made about the plans for the area.”
A spokesperson for Israeli Construction and Housing Minister Yoav Galant could not immediately be reached for comment.
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi strongly condemned the settlement construction plan on Wednesday, calling it a “deliberate affront to the international community, a flagrant violation of international law, and a direct blow to peace.”
“Israel’s persistent attempts to expand its illegal settlement enterprise are a blatant mockery of the global rule of law and international norms,” she said in a statement. “Clearly, such an announcement is part of the Israeli government's plans to annex all of Jerusalem, to erase the Palestinian presence in the city, and to destroy the territorial and demographic contiguity of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem).”
The Israeli government has already pushed the advancement of some 6,000 new illegal settlement housing units on occupied Palestinian land since the beginning of the year, and passed the outpost Regularization law, which has paved the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of illegal Israeli settler outposts.
The moves come as Israel demolished a record high number of Palestinian homes in 2016.
The increase in Israeli settlement expansion plans in 2017 has been linked to the election of US President Donald Trump, who is widely seen as a stalwart ally of the Israeli government.