By KHALED AMAYREH
RAMALLAH — Israel plans to build more Jewish colonies on land earmarked for a future Palestinian state, in what is described as the most intensive expansion of settlements since 1967, would effectively spell the end of the two-state solution.
“These people claim they are committed to the peace process but every thing they do on the ground shows quite the opposite,” Abdul Hadi Hantash, a noted expert on the proliferation of Jewish colonies in the occupied Palestinian lands, told IslamOnline.
“We have to make a clear distinction between actions and words. In terms of actions, they are building intensively all over the West Bank,” he stressed.
“However, when and if the US or some European countries protest, Israeli officials claim rather innocently that houses are being built to meet natural growth.”
Peace Now, an Israeli advocacy group monitoring land seizure and settlement expansion, recently revealed that Israel was planning to build as many as 73,000 apartments and settler units all over the occupied West Bank.
Under the plan, settlements surrounding Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem), such as Beitar Illit, Ariel, Givat Ze’ev, Ma’aleh Adumim and Efrat will be doubled in size.
This would effectively enable Israel to double the settler population in the West Bank.
Currently, as many as half a million Jewish settlers live across the Green Line (the former armistice line between Israel and the West Bank).
Most of them enjoy hefty subsidies and other inducements by the Israeli government and army.
The report drew strong reactions from Palestinian officials who warned that this would effectively spell the end of the two-state solution.
“If the international community is sincere about peace in this part of the world, it must tell Israel to stop stealing Palestinian land,” said Saeb Erekat, a close aide of President Mahmoud Abbas.
“As far as we are concerned, we can’t allow this incessant theft of our land to go on and on and on under the rubric of a disingenuous peace process that has a form but has no substance.”
Hantash said Israel was already planning to build a highway linking Ma’aleh Adumim with the Dead Sea, which he said would effectively cut off the southern parts of the West Bank from the central and northern areas.
He added that the so-called E-1 settlement planned for the terrain between Al-Quds and Ma’aleh Adumim would strangle the Arab suburb towns of al-Eizariya and Abu Dis.
This, according to the expert, means that whatever Palestinian state or quasi state that might be established in the West Bank would be territorially discontinuous, badly truncated, and economically unviable.
Hantash blasted as a “pack of lies” the claim that the construction of more settler units is aimed at meeting the natural increase of the settler population.
“I have accurate information based on Israeli sources that the vacancy rate in the settlements stands at 18-25 %,” he told IOL.
“Hence this is a mendacious claim which Israeli officials resort to in order to
justify the continuing expansion and land grabs.”
He noted that under this pretext of meeting natural growth, successive Israeli governments have been expanding Jewish settlements unrelentingly.
“With regard to the planned 73,000 settler units, it is either of two things: Building new colonies or expanding existing ones, and in both cases, more Palestinian land is going to be confiscated,” said the expert.
“So in reality it doesn’t really matter if we are talking about starting a new colony or expanding an existing one.”
Palestinian residents of Al-Quds complain about “a harsh and indescribably racist policy that always discriminates against non-Jews.”
“People apply for a building license, but the Israeli authorities refuse to give them licenses. They simply want Arabs to leave the city,” said Jihad Abu Zneid, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council representing Al-Quds.
“Israel simply wants to expel as many Arabs from here as possible, their ultimate goal is to obliterate the Arab identity of Al-Quds.”
The Israeli Interior Ministry in coordination with the Jerusalem’s Jewish Municipality decided recently to demolish as many 88 Arab homes at East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, alleging that the targeted houses had been built without proper building licenses.
Israeli officials said a park for settlers would be built in the area.
Last month, Israeli occupation authorities issued demolition orders for more than 88 houses in Silwan neighborhood which abuts the Old City of Al-Quds.
The plans would affect about 1,500 people in Silwan, home to 10,000 Palestinians.
Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the demolitions as “unhelpful” and a violation of Israel’s obligations under the internationally-backed roadmap blueprint.
“I don’t know if there is a certain collusion between the US and Israel with regard to the settlements,” says Hantash, the expert of settlement expansion.
“But I am absolutely certain that Israel wouldn’t have committed all these crimes without American acquiescence.”