03/17/2016, 11.54
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Palestinian leader: Israel expansionism exploits political vacuum in Europe and the United States

Bernard Sabella denounces the new course of Israel, taking Palestinian land to "do whatever it wants". Western governments shows "complete disregard" for the question and two-state solution is put on the back burner. The Netanyahu government announces the annexation of 234 hectares near Jericho. Peace Now: "large-scale confiscations".

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Israel now believes it can simply "take the land" of the Palestinians and "do whatever it wants", considering our people "a mere security-related issue". Europe and the United States "show complete disregard" and do not intervene, leaving a huge "political vacuum", and it is now clear that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "has no interest in the two-state solution".

This is the matter of fact analysis of Prof. Bernard Sabella, a Catholic, representative of Fatah in Jerusalem and Executive Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches’ Palestinian Refugees Service.

He was commenting on the new Israeli expansionist project, an issue also addressed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who defined it an "illegal" annexation and called on Israel to back down.

In recent days, Israel has announced the annexation of 234 hectares of land near Jericho, in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. The COGAT, a body of the Israeli Ministry of Defense in charge of coordinating the activities within the Occupied Territories, explained that it is "state land" and passes under the direct control of the government.
"In this way – says Prof. Sabella - it puts the Palestinian leadership and Mahmoud Abbas into a corner. And it is increasingly clear that the two-state solution is not envisaged by the Israeli executive. This is a disaster because, as also stressed by authoritative Israeli intellectuals such as David Grossman, you cannot continue to maintain the current status quo. You cannot continue to occupy a people’s land and hope for perfect security".

"The policy of the current Israeli leadership - warns the Fatah representative - is to expropriate still more land... and they will." They exploit the "political vacuum" left by the international diplomacy, of all Europe and the United States, "the migrant problem and the war in Syria and Iraq to continue undisturbed. Moreover, the Palestinian issue is not on the agenda for world leaders, who seem to have put the problem aside".
"In the Year of Mercy - said the Catholic leader, recalling Pope Francis’ Jubilee - and when we ask the world for compassion, it is important to recall all the efforts for peace in the Holy Land. Even if they cannot live side by side in love, I hope that Palestinians and Israelis can at least coexist in a mutual acceptance".

News of the latest unilateral act by Israel was first reported by the Israeli NGO Peace Now, at the forefront in denouncing the confiscation of territories by Israel. Already in January, news broke of the possibility of a new annexation, although at the time there was talk of 1,500 dunams (about 150 hectares) which became 2,342 in recent weeks. Activists claim it is the "most important annexation of the last two years" and regards "a strategic area in the Jordan valley". It will allow "the development of new colonies" and the birth "of commercial and tourist centers."

In recent months the Netanyahu government has made a series of "expansionist measures ", say the activists, which confirm the change "of Israeli policies and the return to the methods of large-scale land confiscations".

According to Peace Now, the goal is to "maximize" the land acquisitions in the Jericho area, to "prevent any Palestinian development in the area" and to continue providing "the promotion of some new projects." It also lays the foundation for the construction of 358 housing units in the illegal settlement of Almog and water confiscation to supply the commercial and tourism infrastructure planned by Israel.

The settlements are communities inhabited by Israeli civilians and built in territories conquered by Israel after the Six Day War in June 1967, in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip. In 1979, Israel withdrew from the settlements in Sinai after signing a peace agreement with Egypt, and in 2005 the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the dismantling of 17 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Currently the colonies are located in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. According to data from the Israeli Ministry of the Interior, there are at least 133 recognized settlements in the West Bank - plus a hundred or so "outposts" - and are home to about 500 thousand people, home to about 300,000 Israelis in East Jerusalem, and 20,000 in the Golan Heights. Over the past five years, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank has increased by 20 percent.

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