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

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Infrastructure / Network Engineer (VMware, Windows, LAN/WAN)

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Primary teaching jobs in Thetford

£1036224 - £1513056 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Educatio...

Primary teaching jobs in the Swaffham area

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Are you a fully quali...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week