The Israeli government has issued tenders for the construction of 323 new housing units for Jewish settlers in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, the Israeli media reported Wednesday, according to Anadolu Agency.
According to Israeli Radio, the plan includes 130 new housing units in the Jewish-only Har Homa settlement and another 89 units in the Gilo settlement.
“Another 68 housing units are slated for construction in the Pisgat Ze’ev settlement and 36 units in the Neve Ya’akov settlement north of East Jerusalem,” the broadcaster reported.
According to Peace now, tenders for 89 units in Gilo have been opened, as well as 36 in Neve Yaakov, 68 in Pisgat Zeev, and 130 in Har Homa. All of the settlements are considered by Israel to be suburbs of Jerusalem, as Israeli authorities have consistently expanded the Jerusalem municipality to include nearby illegal Israeli settlements located in the West Bank.
The housing units were tendered in the past, however the Israeli government had not been able to construct the additional units and was now opening up the areas for construction once again, Peace Now said in the statement.
Peace Now slammed the development, saying that the future construction is part of Israel’s larger policy of manipulating demographics around Jerusalem to ensure a Jewish majority. “On the one hand the government does not allow for Palestinian construction, and on the other hand it promotes massive construction for Israelis,” the group said.
Peace Now also referred to the Middle East Quartet’s recent report, in which Israel’s illegal settlement expansion into Palestinian territory was cited as one of the major obstacles to peace in the region, and charged the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of discussing a peace agreement based on a two-state solution under false pretenses with no serious intentions of negotiating a peace deal.
Peace Now’s statement came just a few days after Israel’s Jerusalem municipality local planning and construction committee presented construction plans for 770 settlement housing units.
According to official figures, the Israeli government plans to build a total of 900 new housing units for Jewish settlers in and around East Jerusalem in July.
International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories” and considers all Jewish settlement-building on the land to be illegal.
Roughly 500,000 Israelis now live in more than 100 Jewish-only settlements built since Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967.
The Palestinians want these areas — along with the Gaza Strip — for the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
Palestinian negotiators insist that Israeli settlement building on Arab land must stop before a comprehensive peace agreement can be reached.
Peace Now at the time condemned the move in a statement, saying that the investment in Kiryat Arba was part of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to “prioritize the most extreme settlements.”
The Israeli government also approved the construction of 140 homes in the settlement of Ramot in occupied East Jerusalem and 100 for the Har Homa settlement in southeastern Jerusalem.
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman also approved additional plans to construct 560 new housing units for Jewish Israelis in the illegal settlement of Maale Adumim, as far-right lawmakers announced their intentions to introduce legislation to annex the settlement to Israel.
Israeli leaders have claimed the expansion of Israeli settlements further into Palestinian territory serves to deter attacks, constituting one of a number of punitive measures imposed on the whole of the Palestinian population in the wake of attacks on Israeli settlers and military personnel.
However, Palestinian leadership and rights groups have reiterated that such measures only serve to exacerbate tensions for Palestinians in the occupied territory 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.
While the Israeli government does not make Israeli settler population statistics public, most rights groups estimate that some 500,000 to 600,000 settlers reside in Israeli settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem — all of which are considered illegal under international law.