The Israeli authority intends to approve a plan to build 2,500 housing units in east Jerusalem soon, according to Israeli media. The new plan came about two weeks after the Israeli authority approved the construction of 770 housing units in Gilo settlement.
Israeli Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Municipality Meir Turgeman, ddeputy head of Israel’s municipal authority in Occupied Jerusalem, expressed his confidence that the municipality would receive approval for the new construction plan soon. According to Walla, Turgeman recently met with several municipal officials in Jerusalem in order to get the permits for the plan. The Israeli municipality already seized hundreds of dunums of Palestinian private land on the outskirts of east Jerusalem and removed scores of Olive trees from the area for the new settlement expansion plan.
Israeli news website Walla reported Monday that Israel’s Jerusalem municipality filed the plan for 2,500 housing units under the name “olive trees district,” due to the vast number of historic olive trees that span across the 280-dunam area.
Israeli officials behind the new settlement have reportedly been working on garnering enough support to start building in the area area for the past eight years.
The settlement contractors reportedly met last week with the head of the illegal Gilo settlement committee and other members members, where they presented the plan for the new “olive trees district” settlement, and encouraged the “immediate execution” of the plan, which, like all Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, would violate international law.
Israel has come under harsh criticism for a spike in illegal settlement activity in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks, with settlement watchdog Peace Now saying that illegal settlement activity only fuels extremism, adding that “the real answer to terror is ending the occupation and reaching a negotiated agreement.”
In addition to approving plans to construct 770 out of 1,200 settlement units between the illegal settlement of Gilo and the Palestinian town of Beit Jala in the southern Bethlehem district last week, Israel also opened tenders for 323 units in and around Occupied Jerusalem in the illegal settlements of Gilo, Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Zeev, and Har Homa.
In early July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced plans to build 560 additional units in the illegal settlement of Maale Adumim and 240 units in the illegal settlements of Ramot, Gilo and Har Homa.
Maale Adumim, located just seven kilometers east of Jerusalem, is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the West Bank. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli city which would remain under Israeli control in any final status agreement reached with Palestinians as part of a two-state solution.
According to a poll published last month by the Land of Israel caucus in the Knesset, 78 percent of Israeli citizens were in favor of annexing the settlement, which the caucus believes would just be the first step before annexing the entirety of the Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank already under full Israeli civil and military control.
Within that same period, Netanyahu and Lieberman declared their intentions to expand and intensify settlement activities in Hebron after a spike in violent attacks on Israeli settlers in the area, including approving the construction of an additional 42 units in the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba.
The United Nations and European Union also slammed the recent approvals, urging Israel to halt the decisions.
The spokesperson for the European Union reacted to Israel’s announcement, saying the decision “threatens the viability of the two-state solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians.”
Palestinian leaders and rights groups have reiterated that settlement building only serve to exacerbate tensions for Palestinians who have lived under a military occupation for nearly 50 years, while being systematically displaced as Israeli settlements continue to encroach further onto their lands.