06/05/2014, 00.00
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Israel offers 1500 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem: the response to the new Palestinian unity government

by Joshua Lapide
The minister Uri Ariel appreciates the "Zionist response" against the "terrorist government" of unity between Fatah and Hamas. The new crisis comes just days from the prayer meeting at the Vatican, with Shimon Peres, Mahmoud Abbas and Pope Francis.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The Ministry of Housing has opened a competition to build 1500 new housing units in the occupied territories as the "Zionist response" to the new Palestinian government that unites Fatah and Hamas.

About 400 of the new homes will be built in East Jerusalem; the rest in Efrat, Beitar Ilit, Ariel and other areas of the West Bank.

According to the Haaretz newspaper, Minister Uri Ariel, of the "Hebrew Hearth party" (HaBayit Hayehudi ) said: "I applaud the decision to give a decisive Zionist answer to the founding of the Palestinian terrorist government .. The right and the duty of the State of Israel to build in any part of the country to lower housing prices is beyond any question and I think that this competition is just the beginning".

On June 2 a new Palestinian national unity government formed including figures from the West Bank and Gaza, a sign of reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas.

The new government has 17 "technical" ministers - none of whom come from Hamas, although five of them are from Gaza. It is headed by the Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah whose main task is to prepare for presidential elections, to be held within six months.

But the possible reconciliation between the two Palestinian groups was sufficient to trigger waves of criticism and threats from Israel.

Just a few days ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meeting with some Israeli settlers said that although he was favorable to the settlements, there are " international boundaries" that inhibit their implementation.

According to international law, an occupying power cannot seize the lands of the occupied country. From this point of view, all Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal. Israel claims the right to build new settlements and expand existing ones. Very often this right is defended with literally exploited  biblical quotations, that Yahweh has given to the Jewish people the land from Sinai to the Euphrates River (see Exodus 23,31) .

For years, the peace talks between Israel and Palestine, have run aground because the Palestinian Authority have sought a freeze on settlements in the Occupied Territories (which has never happened) . At present there are about 500 thousand Israelis settled in east Jerusalem and the West Bank . The presence of these settlements make Palestinian territorial continuity impossible and break the link between the Territories and East Jerusalem, making it difficult for the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The new tug of war between Israel and Palestine comes just days before a meeting of prayer for peace to which Pope Francis has invited the presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas.

During his trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis has often stressed that the Israeli and Palestinian commitment to peace implies the availability of each of the parties to give "something" up and  the "renunciation of all initiatives and actions that contradict the declared intention of reaching a real and lasting agreement".


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