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Israel to approve Israeli settlement in heart of Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem

Sept. 7, 2017 2:56 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 8, 2017 3:01 P.M.)
(AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities are set to discuss issuing building permits for 176 illegal settler housing units in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir on Sunday, which would become the largest Israeli settlement built inside a Palestinian neighborhood, Israeli NGO Peace Now said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Local Committee for Planning and Construction of the Jerusalem Municipality is expected to discuss the plans for the new housing, which would be located adjacent to the already established illegal settlement of Nof Zion.

“It appears that the government has opened all the floodgates when it comes to settlement developments within Palestinian neighborhoods,” Peace Now said in the statement, adding that the settlement would “constitute a severe blow to Jerusalem” and the possibilities of a two-state solution.

“This is not a matter of real estate but a matter of politics and sovereignty, as the Israelis moving to homes inside Palestinian neighborhoods are motivated solely by ideology, and are trying to prevent a future compromise in Jerusalem,” the group added.

In the 1990s, an Israeli settlement project had been advanced in Jabal al-Mukabbir after a group of Israelis purchased a plot of land in the neighborhood, which resulted in 91 housing units being built in Nof Zion. However, according to Peace Now, the plan was unsuccessful, as apartments in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood were not “attractive” to Israelis, other than ideological extremists who did not have the financial means to purchase such property.

Peace Now explained that a foreign-owned company Shemini Properties Ltd., which owns some of the plot, requested construction permits for 13 buildings, comprising of 176 housing units -- expected to be discussed on Sunday -- for already approved plans in the neighborhood.

Peace Now reported that Australian Billionaire Kevin Bermeister, who holds extremist religious views, is behind the company. Bermeister has funded several settlement projects in occupied East Jerusalem.

Rachel Greenspan, a spokesperson for the Jerusalem munipality, said that the reports on the housing approvals were "exaggerated," adding that the Nof Zion settlement was established on "privately owned Jewish land" and that the construction plans for the new housing units were approved years ago; thus, the "landowners" were now applying for building permits.

"The municipality encourages entrepreneurs, regardless of religion, race, or sector, to build and develop our city. Jerusalem will continue to approve plans submitted in accordance with Jerusalem's construction policy and will certainly support the right of Jews to live throughout Jerusalem," she added.

However, according to international law, all Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem are considered illegal, despite Israel’s de facto annexation of the territory.

Rights groups have long pointed out that settlements in occupied Palestinian territory have been focused on challenging demographics in areas important to the Israeli state in order to avoid a possibility of a two-state solution and any divisions of Jerusalem, the eastern part of which is considered the future capital of any independent Palestinian state.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law. The international community has consistently said that their presence on occupied Palestinian territory was a major impediment to peace in the region.
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