NABLUS (Ma’an) – Since its establishment, the Palestinian Authority has never refused as adamantly as it is refusing today to negotiate with Israel as long as settlements continue to be built in the occupied West Bank.
President Mahmoud Abbas along with all PA leaders have made this point clear over and over despite pressure from the United States and its Arab allies to bring Abbas back to the negotiating table while settlements expand.
Abbas’ adviser on Jerusalem affairs Ahmad Ruweidi says the Israeli government and settlers are working together to try and eradicate the Palestinian population from Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
“Settlers are implementing a plan designed by the Israeli government,” he told Ma’an Thursday.
The plan, he said, is to establish “a state for settlers in the West Bank inside the Palestinian state so as to task the settlers with security missions in future.”
The first settlement in the West Bank was built in 1970 and was named Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion bloc located between Bethlehem and Hebron in the southern West Bank. Since then, the number of settlements approved by Israeli governments rose to 184.
Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activities in the northern West Bank, says the number of settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem rose to 631,000 of whom 284,000 live in Jerusalem.
He highlighted that settlers live in 184 settlements approved by the Israeli government and 171 illegal outposts. The Israeli government itself considers these outposts illegal, yet provides them with water and electricity networks and sends soldiers to protect them.
Settlements, according to Daghlas quoting official Palestinian statistics, occupy 140,124 dunums (about 35,000 acres) equaling 4 percent of the West Bank area.