Israel goes forward with plan for West Bank building project

 

Jerusalem

Defying mounting international protests, Israel moved ahead Wednesday with plans for a West Bank settlement project near Jerusalem that has been widely condemned as diminishing prospects for a territorially viable Palestinian state.

An Israeli planning committee approved release of the plan for public objections, a first step in a process that could take months and is subject to government approval before building can begin.

Still, the move demonstrated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's determination to advance the project, part of a settlement construction surge announced last week in response to a successful bid by the Palestinians to upgrade their status at the United Nations to that of a non-member observer state.

Israeli commentators have suggested that Netanyahu's reaction was driven largely by domestic political considerations, casting it as an effort to appeal to rightist voters ahead of parliamentary elections next month. His challengers have accused him of deepening Israel's diplomatic isolation.

The United States and other nations have criticized the settlement building plans as undermining efforts to reach a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Eleven countries, including key European nations and Egypt, have summoned Israeli ambassadors this week to lodge formal protests.

The Palestinian leadership decided Tuesday to seek a binding resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Israel to halt its settlement drive, which includes building 3,000 homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that the Palestinians seek as part of a future state.

U.S. and European officials have expressed particular alarm over a parallel move to advance plans for additional construction of more than 3,000 homes in a key West Bank area known as E-1, east of Jerusalem, connecting the city with the large settlement of Maaleh Adumim.

Successive U.S. administrations have strongly opposed the development, saying that it would drive a wedge between the northern and southern West Bank, undermining the possibility of a geographically contiguous Palestinian state.

Israel suspended work in the E-1 zone several years ago under pressure from the United States, although it has built its West Bank police headquarters there, as well as roads and infrastructure for future housing.

Israeli intentions to build in E-1 date to the 1990s, with successive governments viewing the area as a land reserve for the eventual expansion of Maaleh Adumim, linking it to Jerusalem. Israel has long considered the settlement town of 40,000 to be a Jerusalem suburb that should remain under Israeli control in any agreement with the Palestinians.

But the Palestinians see E-1 as a vital hinterland for East Jerusalem, which they seek as their future capital. They consider the zone, 3,000 acres of barren hills populated by Bedouin shepherds, as a potential part of East Jerusalem's metropolitan area, linked to Ramallah in the north and Bethlehem in the south, forming the urban core of a future state.

On Wednesday, the planning council of the Israeli military administration in the West Bank approved "the deposit of plans" for the E-1 development for public objections, according to a statement from the Israeli Defense Ministry. "These are not building permits," the statement said. "The start of construction requires approval by the political echelon."

Netanyahu, who was in Germany on Wednesday for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel, made the same point in an interview with the newspaper Die Welt. "What we've advanced so far is only planning, and we will have to see," he said, according to an excerpt of his remarks provided by his spokesman. "We shall act further based on what the Palestinians do. If they don't act unilaterally, then we won't have any purpose to do so either."

Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the E-1 project a "red line" and said Palestinians would fight it with all "legal means" at their disposal.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, warned of dire consequences if Israel follows through with its plans for construction in E-1 and in a West Bank area annexed to Jerusalem known as Givat Hamatos. Israeli building in the latter area, expected to be approved this month, would further separate the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Palestinian officials.

If the two developments are built, "it's over," Erekat told Israel Television in remarks broadcast Tuesday.

"Don't talk about peace. Don't talk about a two-state solution," Erekat said. "Talk about a one-state reality between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean."

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing & Commnunications Executive, London

£30000 - £34000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly successful organisat...

Java/Calypso Developer

£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, ...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Senior Marine / Shipping Solicitor - South Coast

Highly Competitive Package: Austen Lloyd: SOUTH COAST - MARINE / SHIPPING Th...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment