Israel set to approve massive new settlement near Bethlehem

By Ma’an News Agency – 30 Sept 2009
www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=228636

Bethlehem – Israel’s Ministry of the Interior is expected to approve could become the most populous single settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967, an Israeli newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The Hebrew-language daily Ma’ariv stated that the project, prepared by both the Ministry of the Interior and the Jerusalem Municipality, calls for the construction of 14,000 housing units for 40,000 Jewish Israelis on 3,000 dunums (three square kilometers) of land near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

The land in question is owned by Palestinians in the West Bank village of Al-Walaja, sandwiched between the settlement of Gilo and the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

The newspaper added that the project is supported by senior political leaders in the ruling Likud party and far right parties, who want to expand and consolidate the ring of settlements around Jerusalem.

Maariv notes that the project “faces two obstacles, firstly the large number of the Palestinian homes in the village of Al-Walaja which were built without licenses under Israeli law and will be demolished.

The second obstacle, the newspaper says “is the committee that was formed in Al-Walaja to defend the lands of the village and is trying to stop the confiscations and home demolition. This committee is supported by the Israeli leftist parties. There is also European Union support and American intervention in this issue.”

Despite these obstacles those who support this project will go on with their project demolishing all of the Palestinian homes that were built “illegally”.

The new project is unique in that the bloc of 14,000 units are proposed to be build in one go, whereas previous settlements were built in stages.

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