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Israel Steps Up “Settlement Roadmap”: Israeli Paper

PoliticsJERUSALEM, May 29 – Only hours after adopting the “roadmap” which calls for freezing the settlement activity on occupied Palestinian lands, the Israeli Housing Minister prepared a project to build new 12,000 units in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, an Israeli paper reported Thursday, May 29.

The Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot said that the Israeli Housing Ministry “justified the project as a natural growth of the already existing settlements”. The paper called the move “the settlement roadmap,” in a clear mocking of the U.S.-backed roadmap for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli Housing Ministry announced Friday, May 23, it has invited bidders to construct a new residential district in the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank. The plan to build 502 apartments in Maale Adumim settlement, near (occupied) Jerusalem, is Israel\'s largest expansion project for a single settlement announced so far this year.

Under the roadmap for peace handed to the Israelis and Palestinians on April 30, Israel is required in the first phase to freeze all settlement building activities on occupied Palestinian lands.

The Israeli paper, for its part, considered the Israeli government’s clear “contradiction” as an evidence to the effect that “it (the Israeli government) applies double standards in dealing with the future of Palestinian territories”.

Within the same context, the Jerusalem municipality weighed in to enhance “the settlement roadmap”. It has submitted a plan to the Israeli Interior Ministry for a new Jewish settlement near the village of Abu Dis in Occupied East Jerusalem.

The new neighborhood would be called Kidmat Tziyon, include 230 housing units and two synagogues and cover 100 dunams (25 acres) on a hill overlooking the Palestinian parliament, the municipality spokesman\'s office told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The new neighborhood would be built on land seized by Israel from Jordan and annexed in the 1967 Middle East war.

The land is partly owned by Jewish American millionaire Irving Moskowitz, who acquired large swathes of land in East Jerusalem in the 1980s and recently contributed to the controversial development of a Jewish enclave in the Arab neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.

Peace Now Protests

Yariv Oppenheimer, spokesman for the Peace Now movement, condemned the project which he said was \"another attempt at preventing any solution on the Jerusalem issue by making a return of land to the Palestinians impossible\".

\"Moreover, this is a provocation because Abu Dis is where the Palestinians have their parliament and has been discussed as a possible capital for a future Palestinian state,\" he told AFP.

Israel Will Never Let Go Of Jerusalem

In another development, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – shortly before meeting Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas – said that “Israel will never let go of Jerusalem”.

\"We will never let go of Jerusalem! Never!\" he warned in a speech for Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the city\'s \"reunification\" when its Arab eastern sector was seized in the 1967 Middle East war.

\"As the Prime Minister of Israel, I am true to the honor that has been given me of being the guardian of Jerusalem, reunified for eternity,\" he said. \"I will respect this solemn duty without compromise.\"

Sharon was speaking at an annual ceremony held on Ammunition Hill, the last bastion of the Jordanian defense in the eastern sector and which was captured by Israeli paratroopers in a fierce battle.

His comments came just hours before he was due to meet with Abbas in west Jerusalem to discuss the implementation of the Middle East peace roadmap, which envisages the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

The ceremony takes place every year on Jerusalem Day in memory of the Israeli paratroopers who fell in the battle for the east.

Jerusalem Day celebrations, which began at sundown Wednesday, continued Thursday with numerous rallies, ceremonies and youth parades, many of them through east Jerusalem.

On July 30, 1980, Israel\'s parliament voted in a law declaring Jerusalem to be the \"unified and eternal capital\" of the state of Israel, but the Palestinians want (occupied) East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.


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