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PLO: Approval of East Jerusalem settlement building an 'insult' to international peace efforts

June 8, 2016 1:45 P.M. (Updated: June 9, 2016 9:16 A.M.)
Buildings in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish settlement in the mainly Palestinian eastern sector of Jerusalem. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- PLO members on Tuesday slammed Israel’s recent approval for the construction of 82 housing units in the illegal settlement of Ramat Shlomo in occupied East Jerusalem, calling the move an “insult” to the credibility of renewed peace negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The latest approval of settlement construction in the Palestinian capital, in defiance of International law and UN resolutions, serves as yet another reminder to the international community to hold Israel liable for the crimes it continues to commit against the land and people of Palestine,” PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said in a statement.

Erekat pointed out that the continual destruction of Palestinian homes and disruption of their livelihoods to make room for illegal settlement construction has confirmed the need for “decisive action” by the international community to end Israeli violence.

Singling out the European Union, Erekat stated: “It is no longer acceptable for world leaders to pay lip-service to the two-state solution while providing Israel with assurances that their impunity will continue to grow.”

The Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee approved on Monday two permits to develop 82 housing units in the illegal settlement of Ramat Shlomo, according to a statement by Israeli NGO Ir Amim.

The recent construction approval is part of Israel’s larger plan to push the development of 1,600 settler housing units in the ultra-Orthodox settlement near the Palestinian neighborhood of Shuafat, which was first announced in 2010 during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden to Israel.

Biden condemned the announcement at the time, leading to a diplomatic crisis between the two countries over potential peace talks to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The recent approval of building permits in Ramat Shlomo comes a little over a month after 900 housing units were approved for construction in the illegal settlement.

In November 2015, the Israeli government also approved 236 housing units in Ramat Shlomo, officially breaking the government freeze on settlement construction that had been in place since 2013 -- although settlement construction had continued unabated during that time period.

Erekat slammed Israel’s decision, which was made just a few days after the opening of the Paris peace summit, where representatives from 29 countries, including representatives from the UN, EU, and Arab League, congregated to discuss renewed peace negotiations, calling the move “an insult to the credibility of the international community and its efforts to achieve peace and security for Palestinians, Israelis, and the entire Middle East.”

The construction of housing units in Ramat Shlomo will pave the way for more settlers to join to the 15,000 already residing there.

All settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land is considered illegal under international law, as the international community has agreed that any peace negotiations would necessitate that the Israeli government freeze new settlement construction.

“Israel is spreading outright lies and falsehoods to mask its true intentions of isolating Jerusalem from its Palestinian environs and ethnically cleansing the occupied city of its indigenous population,” PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement on Tuesday.

Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and recently appointed Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared their support for the two-state solution at the start of June, and released a joint statement proposing the revival of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which would establish an independent Palestinian state on 1967 lines and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Israeli government has consistently rejected multilateral efforts to renew peace negotiations with the Palestinians, with Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry Dore Gold equating the French initiative as a form of colonization, saying instead that Israel would only consider direct talks between regional parties.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sending a clear message to the international community that the Israeli government is interested only in expansionism, control and pandering to the extremist and racist settler population,” Ashrawi said.

Ashrawi called upon the international community to “put an end to Israel’s continued annexation of Palestinian land and its destruction of the two-state solution.”

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