Brick craze in Israeli settlements in the twilight of the Trump era

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“They should be concerned about the human rights of the Basques in Spain instead of questioning Israel,” the Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Arieh King claimed on Monday in the presence of 15 European diplomats, including the Spanish Consul General, Ignacio García-Valdecasas, in the Green Line that divided the Holy City until 1967. The ultra-nationalist mayor sharply proclaimed in Makor Rishon, organ of expression of the Jewish settlers, that “anti-Semitism is now directed against the State of Israel.” “We are going to show them who’s boss here,” he added.

The diplomatic tour – led by German Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, representative of the European Union for Palestine – took place in the district of Givat Hamatos. The day before, the construction of a settlement of 1,257 homes had been approved near the municipal border with Belén. It ended like the rosary of dawn. “Away with anti-Semites, terrorist sympathizers!” Deputy Mayor King’s supporters chanted as they waved Israeli flags. “They insulted us and pushed us with their bodies while shouting for us to go to the Basque Country, Scotland or Flanders,” recalls García-Valdecasas.

In the two months until the arrival in the White House of Democrat Joe Biden, who in his time as Vice President of the United States (2009-2017) spoke out openly against the expansion of Israeli settlements, Israel is accelerating approval of new settlements. After picking up the pace with the promotion of 4,948 houses in the West Bank in mid-October, Israel is concentrating the expansion of settler housing on the last red lines drawn by the international community in Jerusalem. These are lands like that of Givat Hamatos, whose construction will complicate the creation of a future Palestinian capital in the eastern part of Jerusalem, annexed by Israel four decades ago after occupying it in the Six Day War.

“There is the settlement that Biden tried not to build,” said Israeli activist Yehuda Shaul the day after the harassment of EU diplomats in southern Jerusalem. Shaul, co-founder of the pacifist NGO Breaking the Silence, pointed out to a group of foreign journalists the mass of blocks with 2,000 floors of Ramat Shlomo, north of the city and also on the edge of the Green Line, with another 600 new apartments in construction and 700 more in project.

Ten years ago, when Biden visited Israel for the first time as vice president of the United States, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu received him with the diplomatic slap of the approval of the start of construction of Ramat Shlomo. The number two Barack Obama was quick to condemn the decision and was about to cancel his official trip, but the Israeli prime minister swore that he, too, had been surprised by the unexpected resolution of a planning committee.

Obama did not forget the humiliation suffered in Ramat Shlomo. In one of the last decisions of his presidency, four years ago he withdrew the shield of the US veto that protects Israel in the UN, and the Security Council condemned all the settlements as “illegal” in resolution 2,334, approved with a unanimous vote. of the rest of the member countries.

The deadline for the award of the construction of Givat Hamatos – which will prevent the connection of the Beit Safafa neighborhood with the other Palestinian districts – expires on January 18, two days before Biden’s official inauguration. This policy of fait accompli is illustrative of the distrust of the Israeli nationalist right towards the new Democratic Administration, on which it is intended to impose a “reality on the ground”.

The Israeli NGO Peace Now, which closely tracks the growth of the neighborhoods, also notes that, after the elections in the US, the urban bureaucracy has streamlined the procedures in an unusual express way of approvals of projects around the Green Line. “These decisions represent a lethal setback for the solution of the two states,” laments the pacifist organization in a statement.

“Israel is taking advantage of the transitional period in Washington to push for a broad expansion of settlements, which requires an immediate international reaction,” warns veteran Palestinian leader Hanan Ashrawi. The visit of the diplomats to Givat Hamatos, preceded by the condemnation from Brussels of the head of the Union’s diplomacy, Josep Borrell, seemed to respond to the urgency of the situation.

“If Israel goes ahead with its plans, it could cause serious damage to the project of creating a viable Palestinian state with territorial contiguity,” warned the EU representative for Palestine after getting rid of harassment by the deputy mayor of Jerusalem and his extremist followers. Netanyahu had already promised approval of the new settlement in February during his last election campaign.

The policy of the prime minister and the ultra-nationalist right seeks to make a new partition of Jerusalem impossible by “establishing new facts on the ground” before Biden moves into the White House. According to information from the Kan television channel, during the recent visit to Israel by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Netanyahu, he asked the Trump Administration for a green light to promote a macro-settlement with up to 9,000 homes in Atarot, on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem, at the point of friction with Ramallah, the administrative headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

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