Israel approves settler building in Jerusalem
Trump condemns ‘disrespect’ of Israel
JERUSALEM: Israel approved construction of a multi-storey building for settlers in annexed East Jerusalem yesterday, an NGO said, after postponing authorization of hundreds of other homes ahead of a speech on the Middle East by the US secretary of state. The Obama administration provoked the Israeli government’s fury on Friday by failing to block the passage of an anti-settlement resolution in the UN Security Council.
Secretary of State John Kerry was to give further voice to international opposition to settlements in an address that a State Department official said would lay out his vision for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. US President-elect Donald Trump has joined Israeli leaders in attacking the outgoing Obama administration’s move at the UN. “We cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the US, but not anymore,” Trump, a Republican, wrote in a new Twitter posting. “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!, Trump said, citing the day he takes office. Hours before Kerry’s speech, a Jerusalem municipal committee pulled back from approving 492 new homes for Israelis in East Jerusalem, an area that Israel captured along with the West Bank in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The chairman of the committee and one of its members said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked for the vote to be delayed, concerned approval for those projects would add ammunition to Kerry’s expected anti-settlement arguments.
A spokesman for the Israeli leader declined to make immediate comment. The panel meets regularly and the building projects that were removed from the agenda yesterday could come up for a vote in the future. Ir Amim, a group which opposes Israeli settlement in occupied territory where Palestinians seek to establish a state, said the committee nonetheless permitted construction of a four-storey building for settlers in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood where they have been expanding their enclave. “Today, while attention has been focused on the removal of ... building permits ... the committee proceeded to approve a controversial project in one of the most flammable neighborhoods in East Jerusalem,” Ir Amim said in a statement. In his speech, Kerry was to discuss Washington’s withholding of its Security Council veto in the 14-0 vote that called for a halt to Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories. Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, called on Israel “to take the high ground and declare a cessation of settlement activities, including East Jerusalem, so we can give the peace process the chance it deserves by the resumption of meaningful negotiations”.
Washington’s move at the United Nations broke its longstanding policy of diplomatic shielding of Israel. Condemned by Israel as “shameful”, it was widely seen as a parting shot by President Barack Obama against Netanyahu and his pro-settlement policies. The two leaders have had a rocky relationship, divided over the decades-old Israeli policy of building Jewish settlements in occupied territory as well as on how to prevent Iran arming itself with nuclear weapons.
Washington considers the settlement activity illegitimate and most countries view it as an obstacle to peace. Israel cites a biblical, historical and political connection to the land - which the Palestinians also claim - as well as security interests. Some 570,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem amid mounting international concern that a twostate solution to the dispute is in jeopardy, with peace talks stalled since 2014. — Reuters
JERUSALEM: A general view taken yesterday shows Israeli construction cranes and excavators at a building site of new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov in the northern area of east Jerusalem. — AFP