01/23/2017, 13.42
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Waiting for Trump, Netanyahu gives green light to hundreds of new settlements

The meeting between the prime minister and the US president will be in February. The Jerusalem municipality has approved 556 new homes in the settlements of Pisgat Zeev, Ramot and Ramat Shlomo. With Trump’s swearing in to office, Israel sees a "new era" in relations between the two countries. Pressure from the extreme right for expansion of controversial Maaleh Adumim settlement, frozen in led up to the Washington Summit.

 

Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The day after the swearing in of the new US president Donald Trump, Israel has approved the construction of hundreds of new settlements in East Jerusalem. "Now we can finally build" stressed the vice-mayor of the city Meir Turgeman, confirming the perception of a new climate in relations between Washington and Israel. The Palestinian response was immediate,  through spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas which "strongly condemns" the decision.

In recent weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked to suspend the decision on building permits; a choice dictated by the condemnation of the UN Security Council - with the abstention of the United States - and by the expectation of the end of the mandate of Barack Obama, in the end strongly opposed to the development of settlements.

A note from the Israeli government confirmed the "very warm" climate that characterized the phone call yesterday between Prime Minister Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, which has heralded a "new era" in relations. The new occupant of the White House has also reportedly invited the head of the Israeli government to Washington for an official meeting to be held within the month of February, although the date has yet to be confirmed.

There were many items on the agenda of these preliminary talks Trump and Netanyahu; among the most urgent, the international agreement on Iran's nuclear program [Tehran would represent a "threat" to the two leaders] and the peace process with the Palestinians. According to White House sources  the president would further stated that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved "by negotiation" between the two realities.

The Jerusalem municipality has given the green light to build 556 new homes in East Jerusalem, the settlements of Pisgat Zeev, Ramot and Ramat Shlomo. "They told me to wait until the official inauguration of Trump - said Turgeman - because he has no problem with construction in Jerusalem." The rules of the game have changed with Donald Trump's arrival as president. We no longer have our hands tied as in the time of Barack Obama."

For the outgoing president the expansionist policy of Israel was an obstacle to the "two states" solution; Trump seems more favorable. The controversial announcement at the time of the election campaign, with the shift to the US Embassy to Jerusalem is also of concern.

Under the Netanyahu government there has been a considerable increase in Israeli settlements. In 2015 at least 15 thousand new settlers have moved into the West Bank.

According to Peace Now, in 2016 the Israeli administration - in the hands of the military - which controls the territories of the West Bank has given the green light for 2,623 new settlements. These include 756 illegal houses and those "legalized" afterwards. To date at least 570 thousand Israelis live in over 130 settlements built by Israel since 1967, the starting date of the occupation. 

International law considers these settlements illegal; a position disputed by the Israeli government, which in recent years has increasingly strengthened its expansionist policy. Added to the settlements are also at least 97 outposts, considered illegal not only by international rights but by the Israeli government.

The peace talks broke down in 2014, triggering an escalation of violence amid the apparent inertia (or impotence) of the international community. In mid-month a peace conference on the Middle East in Paris was held, which was not attended by wither Israeli or Palestinian representatives, which ended with a sterile statement of intent.

In this context of renewed alliances the extreme Israeli right sees an opportunity to give a final acceleration to the settlements and stop – de facto - the birth of a future Palestinian state. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the leader of the ultra-nationalist party "Jewish homeland", has again launched a request for the expansion of the Maaleh Adumim settlement, near Jerusalem. It is one of the first settlements promoted by Israel, inhabited by about 40 thousand people, in a strip of land that separates East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Its expansion would wipe out the territorial contiguity of the future Palestinian state and would pose an enormous limit to the selection of East Jerusalem as its capital. A possible extension that could trigger an unprecedented conflict in the region. Hence the "unanimous" decision by the executive to suspend any decision before the meeting in February between Trump and Netanyahu.

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