Israel delays approval of massive settlement project amid Palestinian, international outcry

Bethlehem/PNN/

An Israeli occupation planning committee has delayed granting further approval to the construction of 9,000 settlement units north of the occupied Jerusalem in the wake of an outcry from the Palestinians and the international community over the project.

Israel’s Jerusalem District Planning Committee on Monday claimed that the delay in the four new settlement projects was due to a survey ordered to be conducted first to determine the environmental impact of the major project, a process that will likely take months, if not a year, to conclude.

The proposal for the construction of thousands of settler units for ultra-Orthodox Jews on the grounds of the disused Atarot airport in the occupied East Jerusalem had received preliminary approval on November 24 by the occupation municipal committee.

Critics believe the proposed construction of such a huge number of settler units between East Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank will further dim any hopes for a future Palestinian state.

The delay came just a day after Israeli transportation minister, Miri Regev, approved the four new settlement projects in the West Bank.

The settlement expansion plan in Atarot was drawn up several years ago. However, it had been frozen on more than one occasion due to international political pressure rejecting the construction of settlements in the territories occupied in 1967.

The plan resurfaced in February when Israel’s transport ministry approved a controversial proposal to extend a train line from Tel Aviv into the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Emboldened by US President Donald Trump’s all-out support, Israel has stepped up its settlement construction activities in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which pronounced settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem “a flagrant violation under international law.”

Much of the international community regards the Israeli settler units in the occupied lands as illegal.

For its part the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates today welcomed the international position rejecting Israeli settlements and the American pressure to stop the construction of a settlement at Jerusalem airport land in Qalandia, north of occupied Jerusalem.

The ministry considered in a statement these positions as an “important practical step in the right direction,” urging “more international efforts for the success of confidence-building measures to restore the political horizon for resolving the conflict and to create the atmosphere for launching a real peace process” based on international peace references and United Nations resolutions.

It stressed the need for these steps to achieve this goal, foremost of which is the re-opening of the US Consulate in Jerusalem.

The Ministry warned against Israel’s deceiving attempts regarding its settlement projects in general, and at Jerusalem airport in particular, especially since the Israeli Construction and Housing Committee postponed the approval of this settlement project and did not cancel it, which means Israel wants to wait until a time comes to proceed with its settlement plan after the international reaction subsides.

It said that “this apprehension is evident from the statement made by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who spoke frankly that Israel has no intention to cancel the project when he said that the Israeli government will develop a construction plan for the Atarot (Jerusalem airport) area that will not lead to a diplomatic crisis with the United States, which means that the Israeli occupation government will continue to gradually convince the US of this project and it will not back down from it because it is convinced that this would not cause a crisis with the United States.”

The ministry said the occupation bulldozers continue to work to prepare the infrastructure for this settlement project which will separate Jerusalem from its Palestinian surroundings from the northern side and puts obstacles in the way of the two-state solution.

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