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Israel opens construction tenders for the expansion of illegal Maale Adumim settlement

Aug. 20, 2016 12:58 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 21, 2016 7:30 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli Land Authority (ILA) and the Maale Adumim Economic Development Company on Saturday opened four tenders for leasing land, establishing a hotel, and constructing a park in the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, according to Israeli media.

Two tenders were published to lease land for renewable 49-year contracts, while the others were for building a hotel and park near the industrial zone of the settlement, according the Israeli newspaper Kol Hair.

The six-story hotel will reportedly be the first in the settlement, and is planned to be built over 2,300 square meters. It will also be located near the mall.

A park taking over 100 dunams (25 acres) of land is planned to the east of the industrial zone to serve the residents of Maale Adumim.

Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel said in a statement that the industrial zone was expected to double its capacity over the next decade, Kol Hair reported.

Maale Adumim, located just seven kilometers east of Jerusalem, is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli city which would remain under Israeli control in any final status agreement reached with Palestinians as part of a two-state solution.

According to a poll published last month by the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset, 78 percent of Israeli citizens were in favor of annexing the settlement, which the caucus believes would just be the first step before annexing the entirety of the Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank already under full Israeli civil and military control.

The area of E1, northeast of Jerusalem, has already been included within the municipal boundaries of Maale Adumim, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Israeli authorities plan to establish another settlement in the area called Mevasseret Adumim in order to form a contiguous settlement bloc between Maale Adumim and occupied East Jerusalem, which would virtually cut the West Bank in half, and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian State nearly impossible.

The area is also located in Area C where Palestinian communities routinely face Israeli demolition campaigns and are restricted from development as a result of Israel’s discriminatory permit regime which prevents Palestinians from receiving Israeli-issued building permits.

Last week, the Israeli prime minister's office decided to push for the closure and demolition of a Bedouin primary school located in the E1 area, while some 20 families of the village’s Jahalin Bedouin community were left homeless by demolitions last August, which community members said were carried out in order for Israel to expand Maale Adumim.

Meanwhile, Israel has come under harsh criticism for a spike in illegal settlement activity in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks. In addition to approving plans to construct 770 out of 1,200 settlement units between the illegal settlement of Gilo and the Palestinian town of Beit Jala in the southern Bethlehem district last month, Israel also opened tenders for 323 units in and around occupied Jerusalem in the illegal settlements of Gilo, Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Zeev, and Har Homa.

In early July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced plans to build 560 additional units in Maale Adumim and 240 units in the illegal settlements of Ramot, Gilo and Har Homa.

Israeli authorities are also considering leasing privately held Palestinian land whose residents are residing outside the occupied West Bank for the residents of the Amona outpost after Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the settlement outpost to be demolished by the end of the year.

It was also revealed last week that Israeli authorities had been conducting a land survey in the southern West Bank near Bethlehem in order to declare the area state lands to build a new settlement. Surveying Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank is considered the first step to declaring it state land and eventually annexing it for settlement expansion, according to the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem.

In a statement released at the time, Israeli NGO Peace Now said the Israeli government had notified the Israeli Supreme Court on Aug. 10 that it had begun a land survey in the area of the Palestinian village of Nahla in the occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, with the aim of declaring “state lands” in the area.

“A declaration as such, combined with the allocation of a small portion of the state lands in the area for the purpose of a road, will enable to connect the planned settlement of Givat Eitam to the settlement of Efrat,” Peace Now said, adding that the move would facilitate the establishment of the illegal settlement of Givat Eitam.

Israeli authorities have discussed plans for the creation of the Givat Eitam settlement for years, to be located past the Israeli separation wall inside the occupied West Bank, and meant to host some 2,500 housing units, according to blueprints from the Israeli Ministry of Construction and Housing.

In July 2015, Peace Now revealed that Israel’s Civil Administration was planning to allocate land for 800 settlement housing units in the area, despite orders by Netanyahu in 2013 to cancel planning tenders for the planned settlement of Givat Eitam.

The declaration of state land in the area, combined with 300 dunams of land already owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) -- an organization that works to "reclaim" and repurpose land for use by Jewish citizens, often at the expense of Palestinian right to land and control of resources -- would pave the way for the establishment of the new settlement in a zone Peace Now called E2, in reference to the E1 settlement corridor in the area of occupied East Jerusalem.

“A new settlement in E2 will pose a serious blow for the possibility to reach a two-state solution and establish a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel,” Peace Now deplored on Monday. “The government's efforts to appropriate lands and connect Givat Eitam with the settlement of Efrat are another step on the way to a one-state reality.”

Human rights groups and international leaders have strongly condemned Israel’s settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, claiming it is a strategic maneuver to prevent the establishment of a contiguous, independent Palestinian state by changing the facts on the ground, while members of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, have publicly announced their support for plans aimed to annex the entirety of Area C.

Each of the 196 Israeli government-approved settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are illegal under international law, while the more than 200 Israeli settler outposts in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal even by the Israeli government. However, Israeli authorities often legalize the outposts retroactively by declaring them official settlements after they have been connected to Israel’s water and electricity infrastructure.
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