09/01/2016, 09.24
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Israel defies UN and approves 464 new homes in West Bank

Plans for 234 unit nursing home in Elkana, 30 homes in Beit Arye and another 20 in Givat Zeev. 179 retroactive permits issued for "illegal" homes that already exist. UN criticism of Israel's expansionist policy as "against peace." The Netanyahu government rejects "absurd" allegations.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Israel has approved the construction of 285 new homes in a Jewish settlement in the occupied territories in the West Bank. Activists of NGO Peace Now, who monitor the expansion of settlements denounced this latest measure in violation of international rights, which have been exacerbated in recent times by the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In recent days the government has given the green light for the continuation of constuction on a 234 unit care home in Elkana, 30 homes in Beit Arye and another 20 in Givat Zeev. The authorities have also issued retroactive permits for 179 houses have already been completed in Ofarim.

The United States expressed "deep concern" over the Israeli executive decision. The expansionist policy linked to the settlements poses a "serious and growing threat" to peace with the Palestinians and the two-state solution. Among the most controversial issues the "retroactive" approval of housing built before, and without permits.

According to the latest statistics provided by Peace Now, in 2016 the Israeli administration which controls the territories of the West Bank - in the hands of the military - has given the green light for 2,623 new settlements. These include 756 illegal houses later "legalized".

The Israeli government and the highest bodies of the United Nations have also come to loggerheads over the issue. In a statement the office of Prime Minister Netanyahu has termed the criticism of settlement policy "absurd". This is in response to the UN Special Envoy's statements that the current executive's decisions reveals the lack of a "genuine intention" to work on a peaceful solution.

Commenting on Envoy Nickolay Mladenov's report to the Security Council, the Israeli Prime Minister spokesman David Keyes stated "Jews have been in Jerusalem” and Palestine “for thousands of years” adding that “the claim that it is illegal for Jews to build in Jerusalem is as absurd as saying Americans can't build in Washington or the French can't build in Paris

The UN special envoy also added that last July first Israel launched the plans for the construction of over a thousand housing units in East Jerusalem and 735 units in the West Bank. They are also pushing ahead with plans to build a new settlement on the outskirts of Bethlehem.

Israel's expansionist policy has recently finished also in the sights of the Middle East Quartet, a body consisting of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia; in a report the leaders of the group have called on Israel to take "urgent measures" to stop the expansion of settlements in the Palestinian territories.

To date at least 570 thousand Israelis live in over 100 settlements built by Israel since 1967, the year the occupation of the Territories in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem began. Under international law these settlements are illegal; a position disputed by the Israeli government, which in recent years has stepped up its expansionist policy.

Peace talks between the two sides broke down in 2014, triggering an escalation of violence in the region.

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