Monday, September 04, 2006

Tenders issued for hundreds of homes in W. Bank settlements

By Nadav Shragai, Yoav Stern and Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondents

[all emphasis is mine]

In the largest wave of new settlement construction activity approved by the Olmert government since it came into office, the Housing Ministry issued tenders Monday morning for the construction of 690 new housing units in the territories.

The new apartments will be built in large settlements, included in the settlement bloc plan, which the government intends to annex to Israel as part of a final agreement.

Tenders for the construction of 788 housing units across the Green Line have been issued since the beginning of the year.

The tenders issued Monday include the construction of 342 housing units in the settlement Betar Ilit and the construction of 348 housing units in Ma'aleh Adumim. The municipal territory of Betar Ilit has been expanded in the last year in a manner that brings the orthodox settlement much closer to Jerusalem.

Betar Ilit is located southwest of Jerusalem and is home to a poor Orthodox population of over 25,000. Its growth rate is one of the fastest in Israel.

Israel also seeks to connect Ma'aleh Adumim to Jerusalem through the E1 building plan, currently on hold.

According to Peace Now, the tenders prove that the "Olmert government functions as a right-wing government in all senses; instead of evacuating outposts and freezing construction in settlements, the government is building hundreds of housing units in the territories and plans on authorizing dozens of illegal outposts.

"These actions go against Israel's commitments in the road map and the commitment made by Labor and Kadima to the voting public."

MK Dov Chenin (Hadash) commented that "the Olmert-Peretz government is cutting back on health and education and investing hundreds of thousands in the settelments. This will cause a social and political catastrophy."

The Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements, for its part, said the building plans were "too little too late."

The approval of construction in the large settlements accompanies the Ministry of Justice outpost aurthorization initiative.

According to a recent Haaretz report, the Ministry of Justice has formulated a decision proposal according to which no illegal outposts in the West Bank would be evacuated. Instead, the state would legitimize the outposts and provide them with government funding, discarding the recommendations made by Talia Sasson in her report.

In the light of the following we shouldn't be surprised at the above:

Olmert also said that his plan for a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, the heart of his election platform in March, was no longer relevant in the wake of the Lebanon war.

"What I saw as right several months ago has changed now," he said. "The order of priorities of the government has changed since the war in Lebanon."

In essence, the already torpedoed peace process is now to be sacrificed completely and Hezbollah to be blamed...


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