Israeli sources are reporting that Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has granted the local municipalities of the settlements to continue granting permits for construction, so that construction can be renewed immediately after the end of the 10 month period, due to end at the end of September.This order revokes the initial order detailing the settlement freeze, which stripped the local municipalities of this power.
This afternoon, IMEMC spoke to Hagit Ofran. Hagit works for the Settlement Watch unit of the Israeli non-governmental organization Peace Now. She stated,
“It’s a bad sign… What Israel is signaling to the Palestinians is that [they] are not serious about stopping the settlements and that this moratorium is only temporary.”
The freeze is a condition of the Palestinian Authority for re-starting peace talks, and although the Israeli government initially agreed to this, they have repeatedly found ways to circumnavigate this promise.
Previously, Israel has stated that the settlement freeze would not apply to construction underway, and in December 2009 new construction began in the settlement of Kiryat Netafim. It was claimed that zoning plans for this project were filed in 2000, but that the final approval had not come.
Israel therefore considered this project to be inclusive in their previous stance of continued construction for projects already underway.
Also, Israeli Tourism Minister, Stas Misezhnikov, stated in late November 2009 that his ministry would continue to develop tourist sites in the West Bank, despite the promise of a freeze. Furthermore, the Israeli government has never considered occupied Jerusalem and its surrounding municipality part of the freeze.
In the settlement of Gilo, in the occupied West Bank on the periphery of Jerusalem, construction has not halted, and in East Jerusalem, the predominantly Palestinian part of the city, the Jerusalem municipality plans to begin settlement construction in the neighborhoods of Neveh Yaakov and Pisgat Ze’ev.
Barak has previously stated that the settlements “will always remain as an integral part of Israel.”