Israel okays initial stages of new West Bank city

PTI Jerusalem | Updated on December 21, 2012 Published on December 21, 2012

Israel has approved plans to build another 523 homes in the West Bank, settlers said, in the first step towards a new settlement “city” that drew furious Palestinian condemnation.

“After years, we are happy to announce that the Government of Israel has decided to build a city in Gush Etzion,” David Perel, head of the regional council there, told AFP.

He said the Defence Ministry had approved plans for 523 homes in Gevaot, part of the Gush Etzion group of settlements in the southern West Bank. The Ministry itself did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Perel said the council presented in 2000 plans for a city of at least 6,000 homes, but had not received any approval until now.

“This is a huge achievement,” he said.

According to Hagit Ofran from the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, there are currently around a dozen caravans at the site, but she said the new city could house as many as 25,000 people.

“This is not just another settlement: 6,000 units could house about 25,000 people. Maybe it’s not large as cities go, but in terms of settlements, it’s huge,” she told AFP.

“This sends the message that Israel is not considering the two-state solution. It means it will be much harder to divide the land (in any final peace deal) with another city there,” she said.

The new plans emerged during a week in which Israel has advanced the building of thousands of new settlement homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, sparking widespread condemnation.

Yesterday, an Interior Ministry committee met to consider an application to build around 1,000 new units in the southern east Jerusalem settlement neighbourhood of Gilo.

It failed to reach a decision and will meet again next week, a spokesman said.

Critics say that planned Israeli building north, south and east of Jerusalem is meant to drive a wedge into Palestinian territory and stifle the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

“This circle will suffocate east Jerusalem and destroy the two-state solution; it will be the last nail in the coffin for the two-state solution,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told presspersons during a tour of the planned E1 settlement project, east of the Holy City.

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Published on December 21, 2012
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