Construcción de asentamientos judíos ilegales explotó bajo administración Netanyahu

POR LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | ENERO 26, 2013

La organización Paz Ahora ha publicado un informe en el que habla de un crecimiento récord en la construcción de asentamientos en los territorios palestinos durante la actual legislatura.

La publicación de esta información coincide con el anuncio de nuevas licitaciones en los asentamientos por parte del Ministerio de Vivienda israelí. Cerca de 200 unidades residenciales han salido a concurso, 89 de ellas en Kiryat Arba, un asentamiento cerca de Hebrón, en el corazón de la Ribera Occidental, según lo publicado por el diario Yedioth Ahronoth.

Los anuncios de nuevas colonias, que la comunidad internacional considera ilegales, se producen en un contexto de creciente aislamiento en el mundo por el Primer Ministro de Israel

Un día después que esta información saliera a la luz, también se ha hecho público que el presidente Barack Obama sigue aumentando su desaprobación de las políticas de Israel con respecto a la construcción de los asentamientos y la forma en que Netanyahu ha dirigido los asuntos del país.

Obama cree que tales acciones están llevando al país al abismo, debido principalmente a la continua expansión de los asentamientos. Hay, sin embargo, pocas posibilidades de que los nuevos datos publicados por Paz Ahora tengan un impacto significativo en Israel, especialmente después de las elecciones, ya que la relación con los palestinos es un asunto de poca importancia por ahora.

El informe de Paz Ahora, que sigue de cerca la evolución de los asentamientos, indica que el Ejecutivo israelí aprobó 6.676 unidades de vivienda en los territorios palestinos en 2012.

En 2011, Netanyahu aprobó 1607 y sólo unos pocos cientos en 2010, año en que Netanyahu lanzó una moratoria bajo presión de EE.UU.. Hasta el 40% de la nueva construcción que se inició el año pasado se produjo en las colonias aisladas, situadas al este del muro de seguridad israelí.

“Las políticas y acciones de Netanyahu en la Ribera Occidental y Jerusalén Oriental revelan una clara intención de utilizar los asentamientos para torpedear y hacer imposible la opción realista de los dos Estados – palestino e israelí -” dice Paz Ahora en su artículo.

Junto con Paz Ahora, Washington y la Unión Europea consideran que la expansión de los asentamientos pone en peligro la continuidad territorial e incluso la viabilidad de un futuro Estado palestino.

Más de medio millón de colonos israelíes viven en asentamientos en Cisjordania y Jerusalén del Este. Las convocatorias de las conversaciones de paz entre palestinos e israelíes se han mantenido estático durante al menos dos años. Los palestinos se niegan a sentarse a la mesa de negociaciones hasta que Israel decida detener la construcción de asentamientos.

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Construction of illegal Jewish settlements exploded under Netanyahu

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JANUARY 22, 2013

Less than a week before the elections in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a clear favorite, the organization Peace Now has published a report which reports a record growth in construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories during the current term.

The publication of this information coincides with the announcement of new tenders in settlements by the Israeli Housing Ministry. Nearly 200 residential units have gone out to tender, 89 of them in Kiryat Arba, a settlement near Hebron, in the heart of the West Bank, as published by Yedioth Ahronoth.

Announcements of new colonies that the international community considers illegal occur in a context of increasing isolation in the world by the Israeli Prime Minister

A day after this information came to light, it has also been made public that U.S. President Barack Obama continues to increase his disapproval of Israel’s policies regarding the construction of the settlements and the way Netanyahu has conducted the country’s affairs.

Obama believes that such actions are leading the country to the abyss, mainly due to the continued expansion of settlements. There is, however, little chance that the new data published by Peace Now have a significant impact on the Israeli election race, since the relationship with the Palestinians is a matter of little importance in the campaign.

The Peace Now report, which follows closely the evolution of settlements indicates that Israel’s Executive approved 6676 housing units in the Palestinian territories in 2012.

In 2011, Netanyahu approved 1607 and only a few hundred in 2010, the year when Netanyahu launched a moratorium under U.S. pressure. Up to 40% of new construction that began last year occurred in isolated colonies, located east of the Israeli security wall.

“The policies and actions of Netanyahu in the West Bank and East Jerusalem reveal a clear intention to use the settlements to torpedo and render impossible the realistic option of the two States — Palestinian and Israeli –” says Peace Now in his paper.

Together with Peace Now, both Washington and the European Union consider that the settlement expansion threatens the territorial continuity and even the viability of a future Palestinian state.

More than half a million Israeli settlers live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The calls for peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis have remained static for at least two years. The Palestinians refuse to sit at the negotiating table until Israel decides to curb the construction of  settlements.

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Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection challenged by rival candidate and allied opposition

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JANUARY 9, 2013

When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to call early elections, it was with the conviction that it would strengthen his majority in government and that such result would mean the beginning of a new term where he could do and undo at will. But, two weeks before the elections, the absolute reign of King Bibi is not so clear.

Ironically, his biggest threat now comes not from the left or the center parties as it traditionally happens in Israel. It is coming from the newborn extreme right, led by Naftali Bennett whose party’s numbers have gone through the roof.

A recent survey of Israeli radio ascribed to the Jewish Home, Bennett’s party, 18 seats out of a total of 120 of the Knesset. The same poll gave 35 spots to the electoral alliance led by Netanyahu’s Likud.

The Bennett phenomenon is however disturbing to Netanyahu for several reasons. Firstly, because his alliance lost seven seats compared to the outgoing Parliament. The votes of Bennett, a banking software mogul who has spent seven years in politics, is supported by disenchanted voters from Netanyahu’s party.

The election to be held in two weeks will not be important just because of the number of votes each candidate will get, but also because the winning candidate will need to be strong enough to form a government.

No major party has been able to obtain an absolute majority in the history of Israel, so they’ve had to form broad coalitions and these elections will not be an exception. The good news for Netanyahu’s Likud is that the Jewish House are almost natural ideological allies. The bad news is that Bennett and the prime minister publicly profess enmity.

In this context, Netanyahu has turned his speech even more to the right, taking his discourse to the streets in search of votes. On Sunday he was seen at a nightclub in Tel Aviv, in jeans, in front of the DJ, aware that many of the new voters are young Jewish people with ages under 30.

In the large colony of Ariel Netanyahu told settlers that large global threats are Iran and Syrian chemical weapons, not settlements. Half a million Israelis live in settlements in the Palestinian territories, which are considered illegal by the international community. Despite the firm stance against the construction of more illegal settlements, the current Prime Minister has promised to build even more.

Bennett is the only candidate who opposes even lip service to the creation of a Palestinian state. He also defends the annexation of much of the West Bank and some autonomy or dependence of Jordan for the rest. “I am against a Palestinian state,” Bennett said Tuesday during a foreign policy debate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “If they have a state, the door will be opened to Palestinian refugees across the Arab world,” said Bennett.

His public speeches, which often ignore the Palestinian issue and focus on the socio-economic problems of the country, entice many Israelis who take for granted that there will be a peace agreement in the future and prefer to focus on domestic issues. A poll that the Times of Israel released Tuesday indicates that relations with the Palestinians is a priority for only 16% of the Israelis.

But regardless of their political proposals, which really appeals to voters is the figure and the personality of Bennett, who until recently was the director general of the umbrella organization of the settlers. “He served in the most prestigious combat unit of the army while being a software millionaire.

In the larger picture, it seems that the once almighty Labour movement will get almost the same number of seats as the far-right Jewish Home. The other center-left formations would be well below that figure, but could form a bloc to overshadow Netanyahu’s candidacy.

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Will new Israeli settlements be a deal breaker for a two-state solution?

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 5, 2012

Who would have thought that an abandoned territory in the outskirts of a population center could turn into an obstacle for peace. The thing is, when war is profitable — it always is — and the profiteers keep their eyes on the cash prize, anything can be a deal breaker in a peace negotiation. This is the case of the conflict between Israeli leadership and Palestine.

The terrorist government of Israel has shown it has no intention of pursuing a solution to the war it now wages against mostly unarmed Arabs on the Gaza Strip, West Bank and pretty much everywhere else in the Middle East. In retaliation for the successful acceptance of Palestine as an Observer member state of the UN Security Council, Benjamin Netanyahu not only withheld tax money from the Palestinians, but also mandated that new settlements be built on the E-1 zone.

E-1 is mostly a wasteland overlooking the Dead Sea,  but in political terms it is a treasure for Israel because by ordering the construction of settlements on E-1 the government of Israel will maintain alive the conflict with Palestine while it plays possum and acts as the victim of aggression. But Israel’s allies have had it already and even some European nations which have traditionally thrown their support behind Israel are now out of patience. The equation has changed variables as the European Parliament voted almost unanimously to support Palestine as a UN Observer member state, which raised even more tensions between Israel and European countries.

Because E-1 is a proposed colony of Israel and because Netanyahu strongly pledged to speed up the construction of new settlements on that area, some Western chancelleries declared that this action might be the final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution, which should result in the creation of a Palestinian state living next to Israel. Because of its strategic location, if Israel ends building in E-1, the West Bank would split almost in two, making it impossible to have a contiguous future Palestinian State.

Israel announced that it has begun preliminary work to build in this area now, although plans have existed for decades. The Israelis have deliberately pronounced the word taboo, “E-1”. Apart from announcing the construction of 3,000 new housing units in occupied territory, the Israeli government touched another sensitive nerve in the political arena, making it clear to the world that it does not recognize the Palestinians as an Observer state at the UN.

E-1 is reached by road from Jerusalem to Jericho. A detour leads to a long slope, ending at the top of one of the classic cobblestone West Bank hills. An Israeli police station is right at the top of the mount. It is the only building in an area that otherwise is ready for development.

The road uphill, which has up to three lanes, is riddled with roundabouts that lead nowhere, but new streets will certainly originate as soon as the official order to build is given. There are street lights, electricity and running water. Everything is in place. Next to the police station, there is a small gazebo with an explanatory panel signed by several Israeli parliament members, who visited the area three years ago. The panels cite part of a biblical text that promises to build the settlements. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

E-1 has an area of 12 square kilometers, most of them privately owned by Palestinians. In addition to some geostrategic issues, urbanization will force the expulsion of 11,000 Bedouin people who barely survive in the semi-desert enclave in Ir Amim. From E-1 it is possible to see East Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and up to Jordan. Opposite, it is possible to see Maale Adumim, one of the largest West Bank settlements that is home to about 40,000 Israelis and that would be the population center charge of hosting the controversial expansion of municipal limits. The development of E-1 is one of the great ambitions of the mayor of Maale Adumim, a member of the Likud government, who intends to take the settlements to the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Amir Chesin has lived in Maale Adumim for almost 30 years, but he does not agree with the Israeli plans to extend the settlements. He says that most Israeli people are excited about the expansion of the settlements and that many of them are becoming extreme right wingers. That is why he is actively looking to move elsewhere.

Israeli government sources explained that the idea to build in E-1 is nothing new. That is a project that dates back to the nineties, the time of then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and the idea is still the same as then. Since the idea was born 20 years ago, settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have continued to grow, to form a cordon around the Holy City.

The Israeli government has also decided to accelerate the plan to build 1,700 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in East Jerusalem, according to the newspaper Haaretz, this move comes in response to the UN vote. The planning and building committee of the city will examine the plan in two weeks time.

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Israel Withholds Palestinian Money and will build more settlements in retaliation for UN vote

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 3, 2012

The Israeli government wants to make clear that the overwhelming recognition of the international community to the Palestinians at the UN is not going to be free. The government led by Arab hater Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the construction of some 3,000 homes in Palestinian occupied territory immediately after the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of Palestine being an Observer member. Netanyahu said that the vote meant nothing and that the insistence by the Palestinian Authority to be recognized as a State by the U.N. would not favor a peace process. However, Israel was fast to react taking retaliation against Palestinians. In addition to the construction of the new settlements, Israel has now withheld millions in Palestinian funds which are used to run the economy in Gaza.

Israel decided to confiscate about 92 million euros, corresponding to the monthly fee transferred to the Palestinians in taxes collected and that the Ramallah government uses to pay salaries to civil servants. This amount is crucial for the functioning of the weak Palestinian economy.

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu announced that it will use the money to pay a debt that the Palestinian Authority has with an Israeli power company. The monthly transfer of taxes is part of the so-called Paris Agreements, which govern economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Last year, while  marking the entry of the Palestinians into UNESCO, the Organization for Education and Culture of the United Nations, Israel cut these transfers, only to resume their payments days later. Now, however, it seems the money will not make its way into Palestine, as Israel decided to keep it all.

The new punishment has not yet exalted provoked reactions from Palestinians, who said they knew there would be retaliation, mainly because they walk drunk after the latest diplomatic triumph. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived Sunday in Ramallah, where the crowd welcomed him with honors only given to national heroes.

“Now we are a state,” Abbas told thousands of Palestinians who came to meet him at the presidential palace, as recorded by the Palestinian news agency Maan. “The world is with us and history is with us. God is with us and the future is ours, “Abbas continued.

The Palestinian president has not yet announced what the next steps will be after obtaining the implicit recognition and binding status of the Palestinian state at the UN. The leaders of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine have explained in recent days that depending on the political climate they will decide when and which UN organizations they will seek membership. The most important step, which is the one Israel fears most, is that the Palestinians become part of the International Criminal Court, a body which they say, Palestine could denounce alleged Israeli war crimes.

Meanwhile, across the Green Line in Israel, as ministers gathered every Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed them with a defiant tone, with which he announced that Israel intends to ignore the warnings that come from outside, including from Washington. “The response to the attack on Zionism and the State of Israel must strengthen and emphasize the implementation of the settlement plan in all areas where the government decides,” he said, paraphrasing the former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

As if Netanyahu had left any doubt, he added: “Today we are building and will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all areas on the map that are strategic to the interests of the State of Israel”. On Friday, after meeting Israeli plans to accelerate the expansion of settlements, the White House issued a statement calling the  decision counterproductive. Besides increasing the number of homes by 3,000, the Israelis announced they would begin mapping E-1, an area on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where if built, new settlements would split the territorial continuity between the northern and southern of the West Bank.

That is a decision that would absolutely kill the two-state solution, which includes the creation of a Palestinian State. Washington is resolutely opposed to any Israeli urban development in this area. The challenge takes place seven weeks before the general election and in a moment of total rearrangement of the Israeli political map. The main formations have held primaries. In the Likud, Netanyahu’s party has won by a landslide.

Meanwhile, Ehud Barak, the current defense minister and close ally of Netanyahu announced that he is leaving politics. The big news however came from the hand of Tzipi Livni, former foreign minister, who has decided to form a new party, which has dragged some leaders of the centrist Kadima.

He has also convinced the charismatic Labour leader Amram Mitzna, whose political priority is to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. The hangover from the adoption of the UN resolution that elevated the status of Palestinian non-member observer state has not only demonstrated the increasing isolation of the current Israeli government, but also that Netanyahu will do whatever it takes to stay in power. That includes initiating flash wars, murdering Palestinian leaders and strangling the Arab population on the Gaza Strip in order to have his way.

Unfortunately for Netanyahu, opposition to his actions are not only coming from the US and the Arab world. The Governments of the United Kingdom, France and Sweden also showed their disappointment with the latest round of retaliation and have publicly protested the Israeli government’s decision to initiate the first steps to build the so-called E-1 area. Now even Germany has expressed its preoccupation for Netanyahu’s attempt to prolong the conflict between the governments of Israel and Palestine. Israeli ambassadors in France, Berlin and the UK have officially been called by the governments of those nations to explain what exactly is Netanyahu after with his latest actions.

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