Watchdog group says Israel to build homes in strategic area

Israeli watchdog group says government plans to build homes in strategic area near Jerusalem

Photo by: AP (Archive )
Photo by: AP (Archive )

More than 55,000 settlement homes are in various stages of planning in West Bank near Jerusalem

An Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group Peace Now said on Monday that the government has been planning to build more than 8,000 homes in a strategic area of the West Bank near Jerusalem.

Peace Now said that the homes are among more than 55,000 housing units at various stages of planning carried out by Israeli Housing Ministry.

The group said it collected the data as a result of struggling with a legal battle for two years in response to a freedom of information request.

8,372 units would be built to the strategic area known as E1, the group stated in a report.

The Palestinians have opposed the settlement in the area saying that it would separate a future Palestinian state in the West Bank from east Jerusalem and drive a wedge between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.

"For these reasons, whenever an Israeli leader tries to promote the plans in E1, the international community strongly condemns them," the report said.

The plans are now in the early stages, there has been no approval for construction.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stopped E1 development plans due to heavy international criticism in 2013.

The Housing Ministry said that the plans were prepared in 2012-13 and that last year the ministry paid off outstanding contracts with design teams.

"During 2015 there were no activities whatsoever on site E1," the ministry said.

"At no time did the office proceed with housing plans on said site."

Currently, about 600,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. An international community, including the United States, defined the settlements as illegal ot illegitimate saying that Israelis undermine the goal of establishing a Palestinian state living in peace next to Israel.

The Palestinians have claimed the West Bank and east Jerusalem, seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, for an independent state. They said that the Israeli settlement construction on the lands they have claimed was a sign of bad faith.

The report stated that most of the 55,000 housing units at various stages of planning would take years to be approved, however almost 4,000 could be built in the near future.

An Israeli government official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorised said that the E1 plan was only hypothetical and no decisions have been made to build.

However, an official of Peace Now Hagit Orfan said the plans reflected the future.

"If it wasn't significant, why do it at all," she said.

The plans took place under former Housing Minister Uri Ariel, a strong supporter of the settler movement.

Peace Now called for the current Housing Minister Yoav Galant to stop the plans. Galant took office earlier this year.

TRTWorld and agencies