Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Israel plans massive increase in West Bank housing, potentially doubling the number of settlers

A report by the Israeli group Peace Now, based on Israeli government documents, concludes that the Ministry of Construction and Housing is planning to build more than 73,000 housing units in the West Bank. If the plan is enacted--and some of it already has been--it would double the number of settlers in the occupied territories. Here are the main findings:

• Total number of housing units in the published plans – 73,302, out of which, 5,722 are in East Jerusalem
• Total number of housing units in approved plans – 15,156, approx. 8,950 of which have already been built.
• Total number of housing units in planning stages – 58,146.
• If all the plans are realized, the number of settlers in the Territories will be doubled (an addition of approx. 300,000 persons, based upon an average of 4 persons in each housing unit).
• In Gush Etzion (Bethlehem area) 17,000 housing units are planned in areas outside the existing settlements.
• At least six (6) outposts are included in the Ministry of Housing plans (Magen Dan, Givat Hadagan, Givat Hatamar, Bnei Adam, Bat Ayin West, Hill 26).
• There are plans for huge construction to double the size of some settlements, including: Beitar Illit, Ariel, Givat Ze’ev, Maaleh Adumim, Efrat and Geva Binyamin.
• Approx. 19,000 housing units are planned in settlements that are beyond the constructed path of the Fence (Kiryat Arba, Karnei Shomron, Ariel, Geva Binyamin, Immanuel, Revava).
• The plans in the settlements constitute 22% of the total housing units that are in planning stages in the Ministry of Housing.

The report has received little coverage in the mainsteam U.S. media, although it has been covered in Israel, a country whose citizens are much more honest about their real motivations than their defenders in the United States. Those motivations? To push the Palestinians onto ever smaller parcels of land on which to build their "state."

As the French daily Le Monde points out, in its own story on the Peace Now report, part of the Israeli strategy is to close the gap between the huge "settlement" (actually a full-sized city) of Maaleh Adumim and East Jerusalem, where Jewish settlement activity is also very active. This would have the effect of cutting the West Bank in two and insuring that the Palestinians are even more restricted to fragmented Bantusans reminiscent of South African apartheid. It would also greatly restrict Palestinian access to Jerusalem itself.

This is, and has been since 1967, the Israeli plan. The question now is whether Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will go along with it. I would like to think that the Obama administration is giving Israel just enough rope to hang itself; but for that to work, the Palestinians have to be very, very smart. And that means not creating any distractions that would cloud Israeli motivations, such as launching rockets into Israel from Gaza. There has never been more sympathy for the Palestinians in the world, and there has never been a better time to expose Israel's game plan to take over all of the West Bank. Fingers crossed.

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