Israel to build 850 homes in West Bank

 

Israel's plans to build hundreds of new homes in Jewish West Bank settlements have put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at odds again with Washington and the Palestinians, without appeasing settlers furious over the government's plan to dismantle an illegally built enclave.

Engineers, meanwhile, questioned the government's plan to physically uproot the five apartment buildings that make up the Ulpana enclave, saying it would be a colossal waste of money and likely doomed to fail. Netanyahu, an ardent settlement champion, has proposed that plan to avert the spectacle of settlement homes being demolished on his watch. 

Yesterday, officials announced the government would build 850 apartments in various West Bank settlements. This came after parliament, at Netanyahu's urging, voted down a bill that would have legalized Ulpana and other settler outposts built illegally on privately held Palestinian land.

The international community condemns settlement construction, and the Palestinians have refused to talk peace while Israel builds on land they claim for a future state.

Netanyahu found himself in the politically difficult position of having to carry out a Supreme Court ruling ordering the 30 apartments in Ulpana destroyed by 1 July. Knowing proposed legislation to preserve the outpost would not stand up to the court's scrutiny, he pressured coalition lawmakers to vote it down yesterday.

To blunt the blow to settlers, he vowed to build 300 more homes in the authorized settlement of Beit El, on whose outskirts Ulpana lies.

Later, Housing Minister Ariel Attias announced that an additional 551 apartments would be built elsewhere in the West Bank.

"Thirty apartments will be evacuated, but 850 will be built instead," Attias said in a statement. "Under the circumstances, this is a worthy solution."

The Palestinians and Washington disagreed.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat denounced the new construction as a measure "that undermines all efforts to revive the peacemaking between the two sides."

Settlement construction is at the heart of the current impasse in peace talks. Negotiations broke down three years ago, and the Palestinians refuse to restart negotiations until Israel freezes settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

With 500,000 Israelis now living on land claimed by the Palestinians, they say their dream of gaining independence is growing ever more distant. Israel says negotiations must be conducted without preconditions.

In a sharply worded statement, the US accused Israel of hindering peace efforts with the newly announced settlement construction — and appeared to question both sides' declared commitments to peacemaking.

"We're very clear that continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank undermines peace efforts," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity."

He did not say what, if any, response the US would take. In an election year, President Barack Obama would be unlikely to pick a fight with Israel, which enjoys significant support among Jewish and evangelical Christians.

The UN envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, called the planned new construction "deeply troubling" and "contrary to international law." He urged both Israelis and Palestinians to work for a solution.

"If the parties do not grasp the current opportunity, they should realize the implication is not merely slowing progress toward a two-state solution," he said. "Instead, we could be moving down the path toward a one-state reality, which would also move us further away from regional peace."

Israel would lose its Jewish majority in such a state, which would incorporate the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 war.

Settlers, meanwhile, vowed to resist the impending evacuation, though they stopped short of threatening violence.

Ulpana resident Reut Lehrer told Army Radio on Thursday that "there was a lot of anger" there at the government following the parliament vote. "People feel we have been abandoned," she said.

Yesterday evening, shortly after the parliament vote, police used stun guns to disperse a group of about 40 settlers who were throwing rocks at Palestinian cars, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The violence raised fears of further attacks on Palestinians and their property, a tactic known as "price tag" that extremist Jews use to vent their anger at government action against settlers.

Government officials, meanwhile, were working on Netanyahu's unprecedented promise to physically uproot settler houses and move them intact to a site about one kilometer (half a mile) away. The project would begin after the 150 Ulpana settlers are moved into state-funded mobile homes, pending the relocation of their homes.

Israel David, vice chairman of the Israeli Association of Construction and infrastructure Engineers, estimates the project would cost anywhere from $13 million to $25 million — and in the end fail.

"I don't think it's feasible, because of the topography and the type of construction,' he said of the buildings, which each house six apartments and are located on hilly ground. He said it was possible the structures would crumble while being transferred — just the scenario Netanyahu hopes to avoid.

Asked why he thought the government would undertake a project he professionally views as so quixotic, David replied: "It's a good spin. No one did their homework on this."

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Life and Style
The new model would be a “pedal assist” bike in which the rider’s strength is augmented by the engine on hills and when they want to go fast
tech
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
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

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower