Alyn Smith shocked at "scope and scale of fortifications".
A leading Israeli peace advocacy organisation, Peace Now, has released a damning report on the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank, which found that despite the Israeli Government declarations of a “freeze”, construction on the ground is continuing in full force.
The Settlement Watch report found that since Benjamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister in 2009, Israel has built housing units in the West Bank for at least 40,000 new settlers, who will have to be evacuated under a permanent status agreement.
Alyn Smith MEP, member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and a long-term campaigner for two-state solution issued a statement condemning the Israeli Government’s actions and reiterating the need for a complete halt on settlements expansion in the Occupied Territories.
“I’ve met with Peace Now activists many times, most recently last year in Tel-Aviv, and I value their work and their commitment to ending the occupation. This report constitutes an important evidence of the expanding settlements in the Occupied Territories, which are the main obstacle to a long-overdue two-state solution. Indeed, actions of this Israeli Government have the potential to permanently corrupt the process of political negotiation.
“Settlement Watch report has found that in 2015 alone, construction for 1,800 new housing units began in the settlements, with 79% of these in isolated settlements that will probably require evacuation under a permanent status agreement. A government committed to a future agreement would cease investment in disputed territories until such time their status is confirmed.
“What’s even more worrying is the way new settlements are being established. Last year three illegal outposts were retroactively legalised to give them settlement status. The Government’s message to the settlers is that there is no need for planning and prior approval since the construction will eventually be approved retroactively. Outposts are carefully planned and strategically positioned, often on hilltops, to allow for future development and eventual connection to road network and infrastructure in the area. The scope and scale of fortifications is truly shocking. In 2015 an estimated 32 housing units were built on private Palestinian land, almost all of them in illegal outposts.
“The current situation is unsustainable and the international community can’t sit tight while this obvious violation of international law and agreements is taking place. The actions of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Government against Palestinians not only violate their human rights but also harm Israel economically and politically.
“Currently there are an estimated 547,000 settlers in the West Bank. That is a fact and any attempts to distort the facts cannot mask the reality that Israeli settlements expansion, forced evictions and land confiscations are against international law. Settlements expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem must be universally condemned and appropriate action taken.
“So far, Israel refuses to accept the world’s calls to respect international law and continues to annex Palestinian territory, persists in demolishing Palestinians’ homes and populating Palestine with Israeli citizens. There is no doubt, we are witnessing a systematic confiscation of the Occupied Territories, and the question is what are we going to do about it.”
For a full Settlement Watch report from Peace Now see: https://settlementwatcheastjerusalem.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/2015-in-settlements1.pdf