Palestine slams Israeli plan for new settlement units

Israeli construction minister announces campaign promoting building of 300,000 settlement units in East Jerusalem.

Israel settlements construction
Israel's construction minister announced plans for the building of 300,000 settlement housing units in occupied East Jerusalem [EPA]

The Palestinian foreign ministry has denounced a new Israeli settlement construction plan, which includes the building of 300,000 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the ministry on Sunday held US President Donald Trump responsible for “Israeli arrogance” that has endorsed the annexation of East Jerusalem.

“The ministry affirms that this Israeli colonial arrogance would not have happened without US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” the statement read.

“Trump’s administration must bear the responsibility for new crimes that Israel, the occupying country, imposes on our people.”

The ministry urged the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court to confront the move.

According to Israeli media, the country’s Minister of Housing and Construction Yoav Galant announced the launching of a campaign to promote the building of the new settlement units.

Israel’s Channel 10 said the planned construction was part of the so-called “Greater Jerusalem Bill”, which aims to annex illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank to the Israeli-defined boundaries of the city of Jerusalem.

The bill was meant to be voted on in October by a ministerial committee before going to the Knesset for approval, but the vote was delayed until further notice.

If passed, the bill would annex to the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem the three major mega-settlement cities of Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev and Gush Etzion, which together house around 140,000 Israelis.

It would add the Israelis who live there to the population of Jerusalem, thus allowing them to vote in local elections.

To ensure a Jewish majority in the city, the bill would also create “independent municipalities” for several Palestinian neighbourhoods that are part of the Jerusalem municipality but cut off from the city by Israel’s separation wall.

These neighbourhoods are home to more than 100,000 people who suffer from a severe lack of basic services and infrastructure.

Galant’s remarks come three weeks after US President Donald Trump announced that the US recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said his administration would be moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

Trump’s declaration prompted international condemnation and widespread protests across the world.

Last week, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that declared Trump’s move “null and void”.

Demonstrations in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have been met with use of force by Israeli forces. In the Gaza Strip, Israel launched several air raids.

Since Trump’s announcement, at least 15 people have been killed across the occupied Palestinian territories, more than 2,900 people injured and more than 500 jailed.

Status of Jerusalem

The status of Jerusalem is extremely sensitive and is one of the main sticking points in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinian leaders want occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state, while Israel says the city cannot be divided.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967 and proceeded to effectively annex it, in breach of international law.

The separation wall, which Israel started building in 2002, snakes through the occupied West Bank’s territory, dividing villages, encircling towns and splitting families from each other.

Today, 86 percent of East Jerusalem is under direct control of the Israeli authorities and Jewish settlers.

Around 200,000 settlers live in settlements that have been mostly built either entirely or partially on private Palestinian property.

Of that number, 2,000 settlers live in the midst of Palestinian neighbourhoods under army protection.

Based on the law in the West Bank, a state is only allowed to expropriate private land for public Palestinian needs.

Israel uses this law, however, to confiscate private land for building Jewish-only settlement roads, connecting them with one another and to Israel. In this way, 12 settlements were built in East Jerusalem on Palestinian property declared for “public needs”.

In October, Israel’s civil administration approved for the first time in 15 years the construction of 31 settlement housing units in the occupied Palestinian city of Hebron.

International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers settlement construction activities there as illegal.

Source: Al Jazeera