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Israel approves 277 new homes in Ariel settlement
Published Monday 15/08/2011 (updated) 19/08/2011 10:01
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Ariel is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank, with around 18,000
residents [AFP, Jack Guez]
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has given the green light to build 277 new homes in the Ariel settlement of the occupied West Bank, his office said on Monday.

"Defense Minister Ehud Barak last week approved the marketing of 277 housing units in the Neuman district in Ariel," it said, referring to a sprawling settlement deep inside the northern West Bank.

The announcement came days after Israel's interior minister gave approval for 1,600 new units in East Jerusalem settlement Ramat Shlomo on Thursday, with notice that 2,700 more settlement homes would be signed off in coming days. The move sparked international condemnation.

The Palestinian Authority released a statement on Monday strongly condemning the new Israeli settlement plans.

"The Israeli decision today to approve more settlement building makes clear to the world Israel's contempt for a negotiated two-state solution," a statement from the Government Media Center said.

"The international community must ask Israel - how can you pretend to be ready to negotiate while expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank? How can Israel claim that the Palestinian initiative at the United Nations is unilateral while unilaterally pre-empting negotiations and breaking previous agreements?"

The statement said that Israel had repeatedly ignored the demands of the international community.

Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman told AFP that the housing units had not yet been built and that the settlement had been waiting for years for the political green light to complete the neighborhood.

"It's a neighborhood in the center of the town which we started building exactly 10 years ago," he said, explaining that the project had been put on hold in 2004 for political considerations.

"Now the defense minister is allowing us to finish this neighborhood," he said. "We don't have a vacant apartment in the whole city."

All building projects in the West Bank must be signed off by Israel's defense minister before being put to tender.

With a population of some 18,000 residents, Ariel is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank and lies some 20 kilometers inside the borders of Israel before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Hagit Ofran of Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said construction of the new homes was likely to begin "within a year or two."

She described it as a cynical move to exploit the nationwide protests which have seen tens of thousands demonstrating across Israel over the country's lack of affordable housing.

"The government of Israel is exploiting the housing crisis in a cynical way in order to promote its settlement policy," she told AFP.

"The majority of Israelis do not wish to live in the settlements, therefore construction in Ariel does not help the housing crisis."

The timing of the move was also deeply provocative, she said, coming a month before the Palestinians approach the United Nations for recognition of a state along the lines that existed before the 1967 war.

They are to present their bid for UN membership on September 20, in a move which has infuriated Israel.

"They're throwing oil on the flames ahead of September," Ofran said of the Israeli decision.

"This government has decided that it will take unilateral steps. Because the Palestinians are acting unilaterally... they permit themselves to act unilaterally."

Since it occupied the West Bank in the 1967, Israel has set up more than 130 settlements across the territory. They are now home to more than 300,000 residents.

Interior ministry figures show the majority of settlers live in eight large settlements which Israel wants to annex in any final peace agreement with the Palestinians.

The largest settlements are urban enclaves which tend to lie close to the border between Israel and the West Bank, with the notable exception of Ariel, which lies deep inside Palestinian territory.

Ma'an staff writers contributed to this report
1 ) Unless The PA / Negotiates NOW
15/08/2011 14:48

than the so-called "Areas A & B" !!

2 ) Wissam / Palestine
15/08/2011 15:56
#1 Stop projecting Warsaw ghettos on us. Palestine is ours and you have no right to cantonize us you Neonazi!

3 ) @ Wissam (2) / Negotiate NOW
15/08/2011 17:49

Time to "smell the Coffee" !!

The absolutely best option for "Palestine" is already just a bunch
of "disconnected Islands", where Gaza & Jericho are already "cut-off",
and the Areas A/B already look like two North/South states,
whether Israel has "no right to cantonize us", or not !!!

And, your "Nazi/Israel" comparison is quite laughable, since
- Nazis tried to starve Warsaw ghetto residents to death, while
- Israel suppies food, water, and even electricity the Palestinians !!!!

4 ) Star UK / UK
15/08/2011 19:42
Intriguing analysis and comments regarding whether ever greater moves into the illegally occupied territories helps address the 'affordable housing' problem in Israel. Do you suppose that maybe the Israel government is simply offloading more of its 'noisy protesting undesirables' into Palestine where, given the military and intelligence paraphernalia -- EVERYONE can be watched and monitored? Too cleaver by half?

5 ) carine / UK
15/08/2011 20:50
Is it coincidence that the housing protests and the recent (and today's) announcements of building more squats have occured almost in unison - I wonder who really instigated the protests.....?

6 ) Robert Haymond / Israel/Canada
15/08/2011 22:51
The situation is deplorable vis a vis housing in most of Israel, "carine". No conspiracy theory necessary. Unfortunately, you always have a lot to say based on no firsthand knowledge of Israel, just shameless propaganda. Better you shift your caring interest to Syria, Libya, Bahrain or Iran where major difficulties persist.

7 ) Rami / Palestine
16/08/2011 12:34
"Israel" is a fool and shoots itself in the feet repetitively while seeking to preserve a "Jewish" and "Democratic" state...what a joke of a "country".

8 ) @ Rami (7) / The Fool
16/08/2011 14:42

Time to "Smell The Coffee"
- The Joke of Israel is "on you and Palestine" !!

And, so it shall remain, until Palestinian leaders negotiate with Israel,
and make the required very tough compromises
(refugees, borders, Jewish state's recognition, & end the conflict)
to get a state of their own !!!

9 ) johnny benson / usa
16/08/2011 18:20
ariel is forever israel...stop the bawling go get jordan...thats your palestine

10 ) Catherine / Canada
16/08/2011 19:27
There is an Arabic word you come across a lot when Palestinians talk about their future. Sumud means steadfastness, and it has turned into a strategy: when the imbalance of power is so pronounced, the most important thing to do is to stay put. Staying put against overwhelming odds is regarded as a victory. from David Hearst for The Guardian
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