Har Homa is only one of six new settlement plans
As world attention focuses on the tragic events unfolding in this area, it becomes even more important to understand the context in which the current situation has developed. Continuing settlement expansion, house demolition, closure, torture, continued administrative detention - these Israeli occupation policies have resulted in a growing dispossession, desperation and isolation of the Palestinian people.
On 18 March, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu executed the fateful decision to begin construction on Abu Ghneim mountain of the new Jewish settlement of "Har Homa" or Mount Wall. As bulldozers dug into the land on the mountain, reaction was at first muted as the Palestinian Authority attempted to keep protests peaceful. The bulldozers continued their work despite repeated warnings from the Israeli military establishment that Palestinian reaction could not be predicted.
On 19 March, violent protests erupted in the Bethlehem area in response to the construction, resulting in tens wounded and highlighting the increasingly tense atmosphere in the region. On 20 March, protests and confrontations occurred in the Hebron area, in response to the increasingly hostile policies of the Netanyahu administration.
But Har Homa is not the only new Jewish settlement planned by this government and threatening the territorial and demographic integrity of East Jerusalem. In fact construction activity in the illegal Jewish settlements of Jerusalem and the West Bank continues at an accelerated pace. The current Israeli government feels no compulsion to protect any "status quo" of the Occupied Territories as stipulated in the Oslo agreements, and in fact makes it a point to openly violate this understanding.
New Settlements in Jerusalem:
1. Ras al Amoud -
a new settlement has been planned in the heart of this Jerusalem Arab neighborhood - 132 new units, surrounded by a fence and financed by an American millionaire.
2. The "E-1" plan,
to construct a new settlement between the huge Ma'aleh Adumim settlement and Jerusalem requiring the confiscation of hundreds of dunums of Palestinian land. 1500 units and a 3000 room hotel will be constructed, to connect this settlement to Jerusalem proper.
3. The Eastern Gate project,
a plan to confiscate 700 dunums and construct 2000 units for Jewish residents only, to connect the settlements of French Hill and Pisgat Ze'ev in occupied East Jerusalem. According to the Israeli press, this plan will help prevent Arab construction in this area.
4. The Israeli government
has announced plans to construct some 200 housing units in Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis, to establish a Jewish presence in this neighborhood since the future capital of the Palestinian autonomy will most likely be established here.
5. Har Homa B,
a plan that originated as a settlement project for Jews only adjacent to Har Homa "A", the new settlement now under construction. Given world-wide condemnation of the Har Homa A project, Har Homa B may be constructed for Arab residents.
on 20 March five more families moved into this Arab neighborhood, which borders on Jerusalem's Old City. Currently there are a total of 17 Jewish families and 30 Yeshiva students illegally occupying homes in this neighborhood, for a total of over 100 illegal Jewish settlers in this tense and volatile area. ** The Israeli government in February approved plans to extend three major roads in Eastern Jerusalem, to separate the Arab villages of Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and to connect the Jewish settlements of Givat Ze'ev, Neve Yacov and Ma'aleh Adumim to Jerusalem. These roads, planned over the protests of the United States for violating the understandings of the Oslo Accords, will be constructed so that these settlements will "not feel cut off from Jerusalem, due to the potential contiguity of Ramallah with the [Arab] villages of Hizma, Anata and Zaim [to the north east of Jerusalem] (Jerusalem Post, 19 February 1997)."
Construction has already begun in two new settlements in the West Bank:
1. Kfar Oranim settlement,
built several months ago in the north of the West Bank. Some 50 units have already been completed, according to a report by Peace Now.
2. Religious students
from a military preparatory college in the settlement of Eli took over a hilltop in the south of the West Bank in February, with the intention of establishing a new settlement. According to the Israeli Defense Ministry, the "nationalistic" plan is to "encourage youth to take part in national and security missions and to strengthen their value of settlement."
In addition: In January, the Israeli government offered for sale some 1500 of 3000 housing units in the West Bank, whose sale had been frozen by the previous Labor administration as part of the Israeli obligations under the Oslo Accords. The government also announced preferred development status for the settlements of the West Bank, offering generous mortgage options and up to 50% discounts on development charges. Also in January, the Israeli government announced the planned construction of 4,553 new housing units in the West Bank in six different West Bank settlements.
These announcements of unilateral construction and the creation of new settlements on Arab lands in the Occupied Palestinian Territories reflect a radical rejection of the understandings come to in the Oslo agreements. Continuing Israeli policies in these areas have served to lay the foundations for heightening tension and a growing despair that a just peace can ever be achieved. Palestinian frustration and international condemnation have not slowed settlement expansion or house demolition, but rather these policies and the growing dispossession and hopelessness of the Palestinian people help explain the violence which has scarred this region yet again.
LAW condemns the violence committed against the Palestinian people in the form of land confiscation, settlement expansion, the construction of new settlements, house demolition, closure, torture and administrative detention, as LAW condemns all acts of violence. LAW demands that the Israeli government halt all illegal and provocative acts in the Occupied Territories, and calls on the international community and all concerned parties to demand that the United States re-examine its foreign aid policy to the Israeli government, without which continuing Israeli occupation and settlement construction would not be possible.
LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organization, dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy. LAW is also an affiliate member of the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights.