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Aug-16-2011 17:03printcomments

APN Lambasts Netanyahu Government for Using Housing Protests as Cover for Settlement Expansion

Earlier this week, the government of Israel approved 277 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Benjamin Netanyahu

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Americans for Peace Now today joined Peace Now in criticizing the Netanyahu government for its cynical effort to use the ongoing protests in Israel as cover for expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

APN called on the Obama administration to strongly challenge this effort, recognizing it for what it is: further evidence that while Netanyahu talks about wanting peace and avoiding a confrontation at the UN next month, the actions of his government demonstrate the opposite.

Over the past two weeks, the government of Israel approved 277 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, and more than 5,500 units in the East Jerusalem settlements of Ramat Shlomo, Har Homa, Pisgat Zeev, and Givat Hamatos. Considering their volume and their location, these approvals belie Prime Minister Netanyahu’s assertions that he is committed to achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, that he wants to get back to negotiations immediately, and that he wants to avert a confrontation over recognition of a Palestinian state next month at the United Nations. They also fly in the face of the Obama administration’s efforts to get Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations going.

“In the face of these latest provocations, it is simply not enough for the United States to declare settlement construction is ‘deeply troubling,’ as the administration did. As things stand today, expressions of dismay by the Obama administration have zero effect on the actions of the Israeli government, since that government has come to believe that there is little political will in Washington to back up such expressions in any meaningful way. If the Obama administration is seriously trying to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, and in averting the Palestinian appeal for statehood recognition by the United Nations, it cannot acquiesce to more Israeli settlement construction.” said Debra DeLee, APN’s President and CEO.

“Some in the Israeli government want to use the popular protest in support of affordable housing as a pretext to expand settlements, but let’s be clear: settlement construction is not the remedy for Israel’s housing crisis. It is, rather, a major part of the problem. Because of the Israeli government’s politically driven allocation of resources – spending billions of shekels to subsidize the housing and lifestyles of those living in the settlements, while neglecting Israel’s center and periphery – young Israelis are now taking to the streets,” DeLee said.

“Israelis deserve to live a normal life, and they deserve peace. That can only happen once their government signs a peace agreement that allows for a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Every brick laid in the settlements makes peace and normalcy for Israelis more difficult to achieve. Israelis know it. The Obama administration knows it. If it wants to do the right thing for Israel, the administration must act now to stop settlement construction,” said DeLee.

Earlier this week, the government of Israel approved 277 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Ariel is a large settlement located halfway between the 1967 line that separates Israel from the West Bank, and the Jordanian border. Ariel is already one of the most problematic settlements to deal with in a peace agreement, since any effort to annex it to Israel will cut the northern West Bank nearly in half. In addition, since August 7th the government of Israel has approved more than 5500 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlements of Ramat Shlomo, Har Homa, Pisgat Zeev, and Givat Hamatos. The Ramat Shlomo approvals, which will double the size of the settlement, are the same ones that were originally announced during Vice President Biden’s visit to Jerusalem in March 2010, representing a slap in the face to the Obama Administration. The Har Homa approvals include construction of Har Homa C – a massive expansion of the settlement far beyond the existing footprint, southward toward Bethlehem, in a manner that seriously complicates a potential permanent status border in that area. Har Homa, for the Palestinians, is the most prominent symbol of Israeli bad faith and unilateralism; Har Homa was established by Netanyahu during his previous term as prime minister, after the Oslo Accords, in what was seen as payback by Netanyahu for concessions he made in negotiations regarding the West Bank. Finally, the Givat Hamatos approvals, if implemented, will severely complicate any permanent status agreement on Jerusalem, since they will make it impossible to include the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in a Palestinian state.

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