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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Europe Condemns Israel's Decision to Build Homes for Jewish Residents in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria - With Settlers' Help, Palestinians to Get New Homes

Israel is expected to prepare for a Jew-free Palestine, whilst 20% of our citizens are Arab. - Michelle

Germany, Britain and France criticized Israel on Wednesday over its decision to go ahead with the construction of more than 1,200 new homes for Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The three European powers warned that the move could jeopardize efforts to restart the Mideast peace process.

"Our clear expectation of all sides in the Middle East is that they refrain from anything that will make the resumption of negotiations more difficult," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in a statement, calling Israel's settlement policy "a hindrance to the peace process."

A senior British diplomat said Israel's move was "provocative" and "deeply disappointing."

"The UK has been consistently clear that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and by altering the situation on the ground are making the two state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly hard to realize," British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said.

France joined the criticism, saying the announcement came "in what is an already tense situation."

"It erodes the building of trust between the sides and constitutes an obstacle to a just peace, based on a two-state solution," the Foreign Ministry in Paris said.

Last week, during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Paris, French President Francois Hollande highlighted the importance of Israel stopping settlement building.

Israel's government announcement Tuesday is seen as a signal to the Palestinians that they should consider the possible consequences of asking the UN General Assembly later this month to upgrade their status to non-member observer state.

The 193-member General Assembly is dominated by countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and the petition for a status upgrade is assured. Last year, the Palestinians failed to receive the necessary approval from the UN Security Council for their bid to become a full member state.

Arabs working on construction in Judea and Samaria 
With Settlers' Help, Palestinians to Get New Homes

Source: YNet News
By Akiva Novick

Surges in construction beyond the Green Line usually mean expanded settlements and new outposts, but an unlikely initiative has made sure that this time, Palestinian towns will be the ones to expand in the near future.

In the coming days the Civil Administration is set to approve a plan to build new housing in six Palestinian villages located in Area C, a West Bank region that is largely populated by Jews and is under Israeli control. The area's 50,000 Palestinian residents are bound by the construction moratorium imposed on the settlements, and in fact no new Palestinian construction has been approved there since the Second Intifada. Permit applications have been sweepingly denied.

Three years ago, the Palestinian communities in Area C found an improbable advocate in Eliaz Cohen, a poet and member of the Yesha Council who was shocked to learn of the inadequate living conditions in the village of Hirbat Zachariah.

Planning the expansion. Cohen and Saad (Photo: Atta Awisat)

"The conditions there were substandard," he said. "The overcrowding is terrible and children are forced to leave the villages when they grow up because there is no authorization to build new homes.

"They couldn’t even build bathrooms," he continued. "Some of the families lived in a goat pen that was converted into a house."

Residents of Hirbat Zachariah, located within the cluster of settlements dubbed Gush Etzion, have a long history of friendly relations with the surrounding Jewish communities. And so Cohen decided to enlist his fellow settlers to fight their Palestinian neighbors' fight.

An article Cohen published in an area newspaper was initially treated as a joke, but the initiative kicked into high gear after it received the backing of Gush Etzion Regional Council Head Davidi Perl and his predecessor, Shaul Goldstein. The settlers began pressing the Civil Administration and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to authorize construction, raising the issue at every meeting with army officials.

The efforts peaked in 2010, when the Mideast Quartet's special envoy Tony Blair visited the village and later brought up the issue in his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"We are people who live together," the head of the village, Muhammad Saad, said. "It doesn’t make sense to see my neighbor living and growing, while I'm suffocating. For years I've been going to Civil Administration meetings, but only now, God willing, there is a light at the end of the tunnel."

Cohen and Saad in Hirbat Zachariah (Photo: Atta Awisat)

And indeed, Saad was informed last week by the local land authorities that they have authorized the construction of 300 new homes. The project's planning is now in the works. 

Saad and Cohen, who paid a visit to the village a few days later to celebrate the good news, wasted no time; they laid out a map of the region and began plotting the expansion.

Cohen suggested that the village's public facilities should be built west of the region's main highway, on the side adjacent to the Rosh Tzurim settlement.

"It's close to our school," he explained. "Our vision is that one day we'll share the sports hall, the yard and the public buildings."This way our kids will learn what Prophet Zachariah, who is buried here, wrote," he added, busting out a bible and concluding with a quote. "'Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'"

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