Israel moves ahead with settlements in sensitive locations surrounding Jerusalem

Oct 14, 2021
Originally published on October 14, 2021 5:45 am
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Israel is moving forward on plans to build several new Jewish settlements in sensitive locations surrounding Jerusalem. Some of the housing projects had been on hold for years because of objections from the United States and European countries, which believe construction there could significantly complicate the possibility of an independent Palestinian state. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Three big settlement projects are being advanced around Jerusalem. One is Givat Hamatos.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: We walk over there.

ESTRIN: European diplomats climbed up a hilltop in November, when the Israeli government, led by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, invited bids to build a new settlement neighborhood there. At the time, the EU's representative to the Palestinians, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, said...

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SVEN KUHN VON BURGSDORFF: We are seriously concerned by the fact that if this housing construction project goes ahead, the prospects for contiguity between Jerusalem and the other parts of the occupied West Bank might become very, very difficult.

ESTRIN: The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and a capital in East Jerusalem, and Israeli homes there would partially block off the connection between them. On Wednesday, Israel approved land expropriation, one more step toward building a new settlement there.

Next week, Israel is holding another hearing for a plan to build another settlement in an area of the West Bank next to Jerusalem called E1. That project had been a red line for the U.S. for many years because it could cut the West Bank in two, making it hard for Palestinians to have a contiguous state there.

And in December, Israel will hold discussions about building a new settlement in Atarot, which could cut off the West Bank from another side of East Jerusalem.

HAGIT OFRAN: The three plans are dramatically lethal for the potential of peace or potential of a future Palestinian state side by side with Israel.

ESTRIN: Hagit Ofran of Peace Now, an Israeli group that tracks and opposes settlements.

OFRAN: There are too many things that are so dramatic that should've been blocked.

ESTRIN: The Biden administration has repeatedly called on Israel not to expand settlements in land Palestinians claim. But Israel's new government has said it will continue settlement activity. It sees other issues, especially Iran's nuclear program, as being at the top of the agenda with the U.S.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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