No let-up to Jewish building projects

SPEAKING over the thunder of bulldozers, Ismael, the Palestinian foreman at the West Bank's biggest Jewish settlement, said yesterday he had received no orders to stop his men working.

'This is a normal day. Look around you,' he said, pointing across the steep valley where giant cutters were slicing into the hillside, preparing the ground for more than 1,000 new Jewish homes. The Mount of Olives, in the midde distance, was obscured by a cloud of white dust.

If James Baker, the US Secretary of State, wants any proof during his visit to Israel that Jewish settlement is continuing apace, he need only take a 10-minute drive from Jerusalem to Maale Adummim. The settlement is technically in the occupied West Bank, but it is growing so fast that it almost adjoins Jerusalem.

Sprawling across the hilltops on the edge of the Judaean desert, it must be the fastest-growing suburb in the world. Cranes swing confidently through the sky, while below, concrete blocks pile up relentlessly to form row upon row of new 'units' - as the settlers' lego-like homes are called.

Yesterday the Israeli cabinet confirmed a decision taken by the Housing Ministry last week to freeze all new building contracts in the West Bank and Gaza while the country's building needs and settlement policy are assessed. The decision was designed to please Mr Baker and ease the way to the release of dollars 10bn in US loan guarantees. But the evidence on the ground is that the freeze has had no effect. It will take a strong arm to pull the stop button on Maale Adummim.

The foreman - who wished only to be known as Ismael - said all the men who worked under him were Palestinians. He saw no irony in the fact that they were helping the Israelis build homes on Palestinian land.

'Yes it is our land. We want our land back. But we have to work. We have to eat to feed our children,' he said. 'If we Palestinians were not doing this then they would get Russians or others to do it for them.' Ismael has six children and lives in the a poor suburb of Arab East Jerusalem.

Ismael said he wanted peace. He hoped that the talks between Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister, and Mr Baker would produce a solution.

'Perhaps the Palestinians will live in these houses eventually,' he said, grinning. Then he added: 'But Israel will never allow it.'

In the contractor's office, the plans for Maale Adummim were laid out neatly on the walls. The settlement already houses 15,000 people in 3,200 units. Under construction are 1,000 new homes which will house about 4,500 people. The master plan for Maale Adummim envisages a city of 50,000 people. The settlement's municipal boundaries spread far out into the West Bank, almost to Jericho, nearly 10 miles away.

Ben Greenberg, the deputy mayor, says that most residents are confident that Maale Adummim will never be 'frozen' because it is inside what Mr Rabin calls 'greater Jerusalem' and will therefore be defined as a 'security settlement' - necessary for Israel's defences. The new Prime Minister has said security settlements will be exempt from a building freeze, but he has yet to clarify which are 'security settlements' - and this will be a point at issue with Mr Baker today. In the past, the US has called for a total building freeze, but is showing signs of new flexibility.

'We hope we will still be able to achieve our objective of doubling the population in four to five years,' said Mr Greenberg, a lawyer, who along with the majority of the settlement's population, voted for the defeated Likud party in the June election.

'We did not give Rabin a blank cheque to dismantle 25 years of building,' Mr Greenberg said. 'Every city has to grow. We have to have new schools, roads and hospitals. If they try to stop us we will use every legal means to fight it.'

Leading article, page 20

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from 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

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

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
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories