WHY DOES THE ADMINISTRATION PRETEND IT STILL EXISTS?
August 19th, 2004 — Both the New York Times and the Washington Post carried stories yesterday about the announcement in Tel Aviv that Israel’s Housing and Construction Ministry would build up to 1,000 new housing units in settlements in the West Bank.
According to these sources as well as Ha’aretz, the Israeli daily, 604 units will be built in Betar Elite and 141 in Maaleh Adumim, which lie in the area of East Jerusalem, and 204 housing units will be built in Ariel and 42 in Karnei Shomron, lying in the West Bank itself.
The Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction, Tzipi Livni, downplayed the significance of the announcement, stating, “These are settlement blocs at the very heart of the consensus. This has nothing to do with the disengagement plan; it is part of government policy and is in accordance with the declarations made by the Americans. There is no reason for a big drama.”
What consensus and what declarations? According to the Road Map, as proclaimed by the United States last year and as endorsed by the Israeli cabinet, asks Israel to freeze “all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)” and to immediately dismantle 51 outposts. Clearly the opposite is happening, as Peace Now, the Israeli peace group, has been saying for more than a year.
Yaariv Oppenheimer, a spokesman for the group, said yesterday, “This is an extraordinary step - instead of disengagement, we’re getting more settlement in the West Bank, without knowing that disengagement in Gaza will really take place.”
The announcement seems to have been made at a crucial time when Ariel Sharon was hoping to obtain Likud backing for inviting the Labor Party and Shimon Peres back into the government, creating what would be a “unity government” to back Sharon’s plan to “disengage” from Gaza.
But everyone has been expecting that the “disengagement” plan would in effect amount to a reinforcing of settlements on the West Bank. The announcement yesterday seems to bear out that premise.
However, Sharon’s hopes of Likud backing were dashed when it voted overwhelmingly not to invite Labor to join the government.
On the other hand, it came one month after it was reported (Haaretz July 17, 2004) that a group of orthodox Jews from Florida expressed an desire to build up to 200 housing units in the Ariel settlement. Can it be legal for Americans to build on land that is legally non-Israeli and without the permission of the Palestinian authority? It merely shows how uncontrolled and unaccountable Israel is to the international community.
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