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22.9.10

There Is No Freeze

Onverstoorbaar verspreidt onze zelfbenoemde "kwaliteitspers" de Israëlische propaganda over de niet-bestaande "bevriezing" van de uitbreiding van de nederzettingen.

Palestine Monitor | 21 September 2010


With eleven days left until the end of the settlement freeze, the construction company Naot Pisgah decided to jump the gun. Despite the current peace talks hinging critically on the issue of continued illegal construction in Palestinian territory, the company started construction 14 September in Modi'in Illit.

Naot Pisgah saw themselves with little financial options. The internationally-supported moratorium on construction in the West Bank cost them nearly $48 million, according to their since rejected compensation lawsuit filed against Israel.

The company's tractors were clearing ground for 750 homes out of a planned 3,000 at the third largest settlement in the West Bank, when inspectors arrived from the Civil Administration – the Israeli organisation empowered since Oslo authority in the area. They ordered Naot Pisgah to stop their work obviously flouting the freeze signed by President Benjamin Netanyahu.

But when the inspectors left, the construction continued.

A team from human rights organization Yesh Din investigated Modi'in Illit after the Naot Pisgah was ordered to stop, and they found buildings still being raised. All of the construction is on land legally part of the Palestinian village Bil'in, which has lost most of its lucrative farmland to the construction of the settlement and the separation wall.


Modi'in Illit's neighbors from Bil'in protested the confiscation of their land for the expanding settlement in 2006. Photo by Yotam Ronen/Active Stills

According to human rights group B'Tselem, the ultra-orthodox settlement also known as Keryat Sefer has grown by leaps and bounds at the expense of neighbouring villages Bil'in and Nil'in. Founded after Oslo in 1996, Modi'in Illit was recognised as a city in 2005 and has grown to 36,282 people.

The Israeli government was fully aware of the illegal expansion – they even recorded it. According to a Defense Ministry database originally leaked by Yesh Din, Modi'in Illit had an illicit construction boom: six multi-story buildings, 23 condominiums, an emergency service center, nine school trailers, an industrial zone, a compound of 20 trailers and many other partial, complete or mobile units.

Construction was never frozen at Modi'in Illit.

"It is is growing rapidly," said Hagit Ofran, Settlement Watch project directorate at Peace Now, who visited Modi'in Illit a week before Naot Pisgah's bulldozers. "We saw there were many violations of the [freeze] order. I saw three new buildings that are now being started with a concrete floor. This is not supposed to happen according to the military order."

Outside of Israeli law, the settlement's municipal council issued permits for the buildings. After they were constructed, the Civil Administration approved them, in effect supporting illegal expansion. Since 1967, Israel extended settlement authority over 42 percent of the West Bank and goaded nearly half a million settlers there, according to a B'Tselem report.

"The settlement enterprise has been characterised, since its inception, by an instrumental, cynical, and even criminal attitude toward international law, local legislation, Israeli military orders, and Israeli law," stated the report, titled By Hook and By Crook. "This attitude has enabled the continuous seizure of land from Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel has ignored the explicit prohibitions in international law on establishing settlements, offering its own interpretation for their establishment, an interpretation that has not been accepted by almost any jurists in the world or the international community."

Once the freeze expires on 26 September, Israeli companies and settlement organisations are planning a massive explosion in construction inside Palestinian occupied territory. According to a report by Peace Now, the day the freeze ends, construction will start on 2,066 homes on land outside the jurisdiction – but under the direct military and political influence – of Israel.

Many doubt President Netanyahu's ability, or desire, to stop the settlement expansion because a continued freeze would fracture his coalition government - and his father would disapprove. In an interview with Israel's Channel II, Ben-Zion Netanyahu said his son is sabotaging the peace talks with impossible demands on the Palestinians.

"They will never accept these conditions," Ben-Zion said. "Not one of them."

According to an interview between a Knesset member and Atlantic Magazine correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg, "the chance for movement toward the creation of an independent Palestinian state will come only after Ben-Zion's death."

"Bibi [Netanyahu] could not withdraw from more of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]" said the MK to Goldberg, "and still look into his father's eyes."