by: Ilse Strauss
Friday, 16 October 2020 | Construction is set to resume in Israel’s biblical heartland after the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria gave the green light for thousands of new housing units in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
The council, which oversees construction in the highly contested area, met this week for the first time in seven months to approve and advance plans for 4,948 new or partially developed homes during the two-day meeting, the Times of Israel reports.
While the council usually meets four times per year and approves thousands of construction plans in Judea and Samaria, this week’s meetings elicited a particular firestorm of condemnation among the Palestinians and the international community.
This is the first council meeting—and the first go-ahead for construction—since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to extend Israeli sovereignty over the pockets of Jewish communities in the Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria. The land in question amounts to 30% of Israel’s biblical heartland, or the so-called West Bank, in line with US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century” peace plan for the region.
The remaining 70% is set aside for a future Palestinian state—provided the Palestinians meet a set of conditions.
Perhaps more to the point, this is the first council meeting and the first go-ahead for construction since Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain inked the Abraham Accords, an agreement that includes a pledge by Jerusalem to either take sovereignty off the table for good or simply put it on ice—depending on who you ask.
The decision to reconvene the council came from Netanyahu, who remained adamant—even on the day the deal with the UAE was unveiled—that sovereignty was only a matter of time.
Leaders in Judea and Samaria applauded the council’s approval, while the Palestinians and world bodies offered their customary chorus of condemnation.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov issued a stern warning that the construction would harm hopes of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Such moves undermine the prospect of achieving a viable two-state solution by systematically eroding the possibility of establishing a contiguous and independent Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel,” he said.
While Mladenov painted Israel as the big bad wolf that destroys the Palestinians’ aspirations of a state, he remained conveniently mum about the fact that the Palestinians repeatedly shot down the prospect of a state on up to 70% of the land they claim as their own—during this year alone.
Both Netanyahu and President Trump have hailed this as a new era for the Middle East. They are spot on. Two Gulf states have already come to the conclusion that Israel is friend instead of foe—with the promise of more following suit. Yet it seems that some things never change. Perhaps casting Israel as the scapegoat has been too convenient for too long.
Posted on October 16, 2020
Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 16, 2020)
Photo Credit: Sarah Yoder/bridgesforpeace.com
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