Netanyahu accused over Jerusalem homes pledge

Human rights groups say PM is guilty of disinformation, writes Patrick Cockburn

Jerusalem - A promise by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, that the building of a new Jewish settlement at Har Homa in Jerusalem will be matched by the construction of 3,015 houses for Palestinians in the city was denounced by human rights groups yesterday as highly misleading, if not a direct lie.

"It is disinformation," said Danny Seidemann, a civil rights lawyer contesting the Har Homa project.

"Four times the government has promised more building permits for Palestinians in Jerusalem as a quid pro quo for the building of a settlement.

"In 1980, some 18,000 permits were pledged, but 17 years later we have yet to see a single one."

In a bid to placate critics of his plan to build 6,500 apartments for Jews at Har Homa between Jerusalem and Bethlehem on land captured by Israel in 1967, Mr Netanyahu said the government had allocated $42m (pounds 26m) for housing for Palestinians in 10 East Jerusalem neighborhoods over the next three years.

Since 1967, Palestinians in the city have been able to build only 9,000 apartments, compared to 64,000 built for Jews - 39,000 of which are on expropriated land.

In reality Mr Netanyahu, wishing to appear even-handed to an international audience, has recycled an existing plan to build sewers, water pipes and roads in Palestinian areas in East Jerusalem.

Once this is done, Palestinians will be able to apply for the 3,015 building permits to build houses privately.

"Contrary to the impression left by most of the media," wrote the daily Haaretz yesterday, "there has been no decision to directly build residential units for Arabs, but only to invest in infrastructure."

Israeli policy is to maintain a ratio of 72 per cent Jews and 28 per cent Palestinians in the 600,000 population of Jerusalem.

Palestinians allege that this has been done through restricting their access to housing and by gerrymandering the municipal boundaries of the city to exclude Palestinian towns and villages.

In the metropolitan area of Jerusalem as a whole, the Palestinian population is about 55 per cent of the total.

Diplomats in Jerusalem say they are also concerned that the Israeli Interior Ministry is casting doubts on the validity of the Jerusalem residency permits of 120,000 out of 170,000 Palestinians in the city.

Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, reacted cautiously yesterday to the Har Homa decision, probably because he wants to discourage any confrontation as he prepares to go to Washington to see President Clinton next week.

Visiting the West Bank town of Nablus yesterday, he said: "This is a big breaching to what had been agreed upon and it is against the United Nations resolutions and also against the American letter of guarantee."

Asked if big protests were planned Salah al-Tamaari, a member of the Palestinian Council co-ordinating protests against Har Homa, said: "We don't want to consume the energies of our people all at once.

"Things will accumulate. Arafat always responds to the mood of the people."

He said the settlement would cut off Palestinians in Jerusalem from those outside, and cut the West Bank in two.

Abroad, Israel has been criticised throughout the world, but probably no more strongly than Mr Netanyahu expected.

At the same time there is little doubt that he would have preferred not to have started, under pressure from the right, such a high-profile project which focuses international attention on Jerusalem.

In return for Mr Arafat limiting his reaction to rhetoric, Mr Netanyahu is reported to have agreed to a more substantial Israeli redeployment on the West Bank next month under the Hebron agreement than had originally been planned.

There are signs that Mr Arafat does not want a confrontation. At the village of Hisma, to the north of Jerusalem, where a Palestinian man was shot dead by an Israeli undercover squad on Tuesday, the Palestinian Preventive Security Service co-operated with Israeli forces in imposing a curfew.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before