Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Israelis grab more land near East Jerusalem

Arab reporting agency:
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel has ordered the confiscation of Arab land outside East Jerusalem, officials said Tuesday, reviving fears that the Occupied West Bank could be split in two and challenging peace overtures.

The appropriation orders come with Israelis and Palestinians preparing for a US-sponsored peace summit widely expected near Washington next month, and were immediately criticized by Arab authorities.
Hassan Abed Rabbo at the Palestinian Local Government Ministry said the late September order covers 110 hectares in four Palestinian villages between East Jerusalem and the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim.
The land could create a bloc of settlements incorporating Maale Adumim and nearby Mishor Adumim and Kedar, he said, and "prevent Palestinian territorial continuity" between the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.
"They have usurped dozens of hectares of West Bank land for their greater Jerusalem settlement project that takes in Maale Adumim," Abed Rabbo added.
The Israeli Army orders given to landowners, a copy of which was seen by AFP, sought to justify the expropriation on "military grounds" and for "measures designed to stop terrorist acts."
The army said Israel was constructing a 15.5-kilometer road linking East Jerusalem to the West Bank town of Jericho on 144 hectares of state-owned land and 23 hectares of "appropriated" land. The road is being built "in order to improve the quality of life for Palestinians," it said.
But Israel's Haaretz newspaper said the appropriated land would also allow for the development of illegal Jewish settlements on a key strip of the West Bank east of Jerusalem.
"That in turn would 'free up' the E-1 area between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, through which the current Jerusalem-Jericho road runs, for a long-planned Jewish development consisting of 3,500 apartments and an industrial park," Haaretz wrote.

In 2005, Israel - under rare US pressure - agreed to freeze plans to connect Maale Adumim to East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as capital for their promised state and which Israel has occupied since 1967.
The Palestinians heavily criticized the project because it would effectively split the West Bank and separate the territory from East Jerusalem.
Illegal Jewish settlements have been one of several stumbling blocks that have precluded an agreement in past Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
"We condemn this Israeli decision to confiscate Palestinian land at a time in which we are trying to revive the peace process," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP. "Settlement expansion, especially in the Jerusalem area, will undermine and destroy these efforts. We call upon the Israeli government to revoke this decision and give peace a chance."
Egypt also strongly criticized what Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said proves "Israel is planning to go ahead with its scheme to separate the northern parts of the West Bank from its southern ones.
"Going ahead with this project is in total contradiction with efforts by all parties to resume serious political negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians," he added.
Zaki said the move was "extremely worrying" and appealed to the international community to get Israel to "stop playing with the fate and destiny of people in the region by throwing the option of a just peace out the window."
A US diplomat refused to comment on this specific case, saying only that "we discourage any of the sides from taking
actions that will prejudice the final-status issues that should be settled in bilateral negotiations." – AFP

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