12/31/2015, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE

Israel backs down over 55 thousand new settler homes in the West Bank

Revealed recently by activists, the project is denied by government, who claims it was commissioned "without authorization" and "has no validity". Plans targeted E1 area, to create a buffer separating East Jerusalem from the West Bank

Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The planned  55,548 new homes for settlers in the West Bank, in one of the most disputed areas in the region, was commissioned "without authorization" and "has no validity", according to Israeli government officials.

The same authorities deny that the plans will go ahead to build thousands of new homes as reported in recent days by the organization "Peace Now". The activists had published the news based on the data received by the executive, which included a new plan for settlements with the creation of two new settlements and the expansion of 8,300 homes in the E1area.

E1 is the area adjacent to the Maale Adumim colony, and together form a buffer to the east of Jerusalem, separating the Arab part of the holy city from the West Bank. This would make the territorial contiguity of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital almost impossible.

The decision to allow over 55 thousand new homes raised fierce controversy, which may explain the partial backtrack announced by the Israeli government.

Al document signed by some "officials" of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives the former Minister of Housing Uri Ariel (now Minister of Agriculture, who comes from the settlement of Kfar Adumim, northeast the E1) the design of new settlements in the area. "He did it on his own initiative and without any authorization" says the statement, which added that the ministry "has no authority to decide planning or construction beyond the Green Line" separating Israel from the West Bank.

The fact remains that E1 is a "flash point" and, as Peace Now recalls, "every time Israeli leaders promote housing plans" the international community will react "strongly condemning". The United States, European Union and United Nations are opposed to all settlements, but are particularly attentive to the E1 zone.

All dialogue between Israel and Palestine has been stalled since April 2014 on account of the increase in settlements in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967. According to international law all those settlements are illegal, but Israel continues to expand making the birth of a Palestinian state almost impossible.

To date there are 380 thousand Israelis settled in 135 settlements in the West Bank, plus another 200 thousand settled in East Jerusalem.

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