On a recent visit to East Jerusalem neighbourhood Har Homa, also known as Jabal Abu Ghneim, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to turn the illegal settlement into a mid-sized city, with 2,200 new units built for Jews.
Another 4,000 units in Givat Hamatos would be built on privately-owned Palestinian land and only one-quarter of it would be reserved for Palestinian residents. The new settlement units would represent an extension to the Palestinian neighbourhood of Beit Safafa, which has been divided by the Green Line since 1949.
According to Netanyahu, this is an attempt to champion coexistence and peace in East Jerusalem.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesperson told WAFA, that the announcement adds to Netanyahu’s attempts to destroy the two-state solution and any possibility of peace.
Likewise, Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement activist group, views Netanyahu’s plan as state suicide, explaining that it could destroy any possibility of a two-state solution as it potentially severs East Jerusalem and connection to Bethlehem.
The international community widely considers the establishment of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land a violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 446, which calls on Israel to halt the transferring of its population into Palestinian territories, including to the contested city of Jerusalem.
According to Human Rights Watch, there are currently 628,000 settlers living illegally in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel seized control over East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, later annexing the city, also in a move unrecognised by the international community.
Despite widespread condemnation, many see Netanyahu’s continued settlement expansion as encouraged by recent US policy reversal on many issues heavily favouring Israel.
These include Trump’s 2017 decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, the US no longer considering Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law, and the reveal of Trump’s long-awaited Middle East plan, which acknowledges Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, west to east.
After Israeli voters delivered two inconclusive election results last year and the recent corruption and bribery indictments against his administration, Netanyahu’s pledge to build thousands of new illegal settler homes is viewed by many as a strategy to tap into a right-wing electoral base that is keen on the extension of Israeli sovereignty of occupied Palestinian land.
PA President Abbas has publicly denounced Netanyahu’s plan as an attempt to win votes ahead of elections on 2 March.
“Netanyahu’s attempts to win right-wing Israeli votes on the eve of the Israeli elections at the expense of Palestinian rights will not bring peace and stability to anyone, and will lead to more tension and violence in the region,” he said the statement published by Wafa news agency.
Source: Palestine Monitor