The Israeli Jerusalem municipality on Wednesday approved the seizure of a large area (200 dunams) in East Jerusalem to construct a colonial settlement in violation of international law and signed agreements. This marks the latest stage of the Israeli government’s long-planned ‘E1 Jerusalem’ plan to take over and steal most of East Jerusalem from its Palestinian inhabitants, encircle Jerusalem with Jewish-only settlements, and isolate and displace the Palestinians who remain.
Israeli officials originally attempted to carry out the illegal land seizure in 2014, but lacked the full support of the US, and faced criticism from the international community, so didn’t carry out the takeover.
Now, following four years of massive expansion of Israeli colonies and theft of Palestinian land while the Trump regime was in power in the US, the Israeli government has been emboldened to carry out more blatant land seizures in direct violation of international law.
On Wednesday, as the Israeli Jerusalem municipality was announcing the approval of the Givat HaMatos settlement colony, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was exchanging niceties with US Vice president Kamala Harris in Washington DC. Lapid praised Harris for “supporting Israel throughout the years” and for being “one of Israel’s best friends”.
Harris did not mention the settlement approval, saying only that she planned to discuss with Lapid, “Israel’s security needs, and peace and prosperity for Israel and the Palestinians. We will also talk about the Iranian issue and the Abraham Accords.”
According to an article in the Israel Policy Forum by Evan Gottesman earlier this year, “Givat Hamatos threatens to isolate the Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Beit Safafa and Sharafat from the rest of the city, disrupting the contiguity of a future Palestinain [sic] capital, as well as the connection between East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Moreover, the tender put forth by the Israeli government for Givat Hamatos reserves 40% of new units for recipients of state-subsidized housing. Citizenship is a requirement for this benefit, thus leaving out nearly all East Jerusalem Palestinians, who only hold Israeli residency [Palestinians in Jerusalem are considered ‘residents’ in their own homeland, with no citizenship, since Israeli authorities are trying to get them to leave, to be able to take their land and homes]. All of this complements the Trump plan, which restricted a prospective Palestinian capital to two small areas east of the Israel-West Bank barrier.”
One of the Jerusalem municipality Committee members who approved the project Wednesday, Yehuda Freudliger, stated, “I was happy today to be a partner in advancing the construction plan of Givat Hamatos. Jerusalem craves land for construction, Givat Hamatos is an ideal place that does not harm nature and is close to existing neighborhoods. All lovers of Jerusalem and lovers of the environment and protecting nature should do everything possible to promote the plan and not let political pressures delay it.”
The construction of the new settlement of up to 2,600 housing units will isolate and surround the remaining Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem, preventing them from being able to access the West Bank.
Israel’s approval of the settlement on Wednesday was condemned by European Union Foreign Minister Joseph Burrell, who said the new settlement in this crucial location will “hurt the chances of establishing a Palestinian state with territorial continuity”.