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Peace Now: Settlement expansion strengthens extremism, endangers Israelis

July 4, 2016 6:51 P.M. (Updated: July 5, 2016 1:07 P.M.)
A bulldozer is seen next to a new housing construction site in the illegal settlement of Har Homa in occupied East Jerusalem on March 19, 2014. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Settlement watchdog Peace Now slammed the Israeli government’s approval of 800 housing units in the Maale Adumim illegal settlement bloc and in occupied East Jerusalem on Monday, saying the decision endangered “both the possibility for peace and two states and the security of Israeli citizens.”

Some 140 homes in the Jewish settlement of Ramot in occupied East Jerusalem and 100 for the Har Homa settlement in southeastern Jerusalem were approved by the Israeli government for construction on Sunday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also approved plans to construct 560 new housing units for Jewish Israelis in the illegal settlement of Maale Adumim, as far-right lawmakers also announced their intentions to introduce legislation to annex the settlement to Israel.

Peace Now noted in their statement that the Israeli government was to open a tender for the construction of 42 housing units in Kiryat Arba in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, a decision made in the wake of the brutal killing of a 13-year-old Israeli girl in the settlement by a Palestinian resident of Hebron.

On Sunday night, the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset said they were “working [to authorize] massive building in Maale Adumim and to impose sovereignty there and in all of Judea and Samaria,” using an Israeli term for the occupied West Bank, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin reportedly explained at the caucus meeting that new settlement housing and the annexation of the Maale Adumim were "vital" in the aftermath of a recent string of attacks which have left two Israelis killed and four Palestinian shot dead.

The caucus reportedly determined at the meeting that they would introduce legislation in the Knesset within two weeks to annex the settlement.

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 West Bank. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli city that would remain under Israeli control in any final-status agreement reached with the Palestinians as part of a two-state solution.

“Terrorism will only end when they [the Palestinians] understand that we are here to stay,” The Jerusalem Post quoted caucus co-chair MK Yoav Kisch as saying.

According to a poll published last month by the caucus, 78 percent of Israeli citizens are 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 parts of the West Bank already under full Israeli civil and military control.

“If they do not want us to be here, we need to say we are here and we will be here for eternity and that is the significance of saying MaaleAdumim is Israeli and part of sovereign Israel,” Elkin said.

“New housing units in the settlements will not prevent the next victims but rather strengthen the extremists on both sides," Peace Now argued in their statement. "The real answer to terror is ending the occupation and reaching a negotiated agreement.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority spokesman Yousif al-Mahmoud condemned the Israeli government’s approval of 800 new settlement housing units, adding that it was part of a recent escalation in Israeli incitement and threats in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Al-Mahmoud called on the international community to urgently take action against Israeli escalations, adding that its silence towards Israeli policies which are illegal under international law encouraged Israel to continue its attacks against Palestinians.
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