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To placate settlers, israel to build additional 850 apartments inwest bank - China Liquefied Gas Cy by e55he swrzsnb

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To placate settlers, israel to build additional 850 apartments inwest bank - China Liquefied Gas Cy by
Article Posted: 01/09/2014
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To placate settlers, israel to build additional 850 apartments inwest bank - China Liquefied Gas Cy

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JERUSALEM – Israel's plans to build hundreds of new homes in Jewish West Banksettlements have put Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at oddsagain with Washington and the Palestinians, without appeasingsettlers furious over the government's plan to dismantle anillegally built settler enclave. Engineers, meanwhile, questioned the government's plan tophysically uproot the five apartment buildings that make up theUlpana enclave, saying it would be a colossal waste of money andlikely doomed to fail. Netanyahu, an ardent settlement champion, has proposed that plan toavert the spectacle of settlement homes being demolished on hiswatch. On Wednesday, officials announced the government would build 850apartments in various West Bank settlements after parliament, atNetanyahu's urging, voted down a bill that would have legalizedUlpana and other settler outposts built illegally on privately heldPalestinian land. The international community condemns settlementconstruction, and the Palestinians have refused to talk peace whileIsrael builds on land they claim for a future state.

Netanyahu found himself in the politically difficult position ofhaving to carry out a Supreme Court ruling ordering the 30apartments in Ulpana destroyed by July 1. Knowing it would notstand up to the court's scrutiny, he pressured coalition lawmakerson Wednesday to vote down a proposal by hardline legislators tolegalize outposts built on privately held Palestinian land. To blunt the blow to settlers, he vowed to build 300 more homes inthe authorized settlement of Beit El, on whose outskirts Ulpanalies. "Israel is a democracy that observes the law, and as prime ministerI am obligated to preserve the law and preserve the settlements.And I say here that there is no contradiction between the two," hesaid Wednesday after the vote. Later, Construction Minister Ariel Attias announced that anadditional 551 apartments would be built elsewhere in the WestBank.

"Thirty apartments will be evacuated, but 850 will be builtinstead," said Attias in a statement. "Under the circumstances,this is a worthy solution." The Beit El announcement, the first new construction to be approvedby the government in half a year, is largely symbolic. Theconstruction could be years away, since a lengthy planning processis required before any building can begin, officials say. Hagit Ofran of the anti-settlement watchdog group Peace Now saidthe remaining units appear to have already been planned long ago.Israel builds about 2,000 housing units in the West Bank each year,and she said the newly announced plans would not change that pace. Even so, the Palestinians and the U.S.

harshly condemned the newconstruction as a sign of bad faith. Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat denounced the newconstruction as a measure "that undermines all efforts to revivethe peacemaking between the two sides." With 500,000 Israelis now living on land claimed by thePalestinians, they say their dream of gaining independence isgrowing ever more distant. Israel says negotiations must beconducted without preconditions. In a sharply worded statement, the U.S. accused Israel of hinderingpeace efforts with the newly announced settlement construction— and appeared to question both sides' declared commitmentsto peacemaking.

"We're very clear that continued Israeli settlement activity in theWest Bank undermines peace efforts," U.S. State Departmentspokesman Mark Toner said. "We do not accept the legitimacy ofcontinued Israeli settlement activity." Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down threeyears ago, and the Palestinians refuse to restart negotiationsuntil Israel freezes settlement construction in the West Bank andeast Jerusalem. Settlers, meanwhile, vowed to resist the impending evacuation,though they stopped short of threatening violence. Ulpana resident Reut Lehrer told Army Radio on Thursday that "therewas a lot of anger" there at the government following theparliament vote.

"People feel we have been abandoned," she said. Ulpana settlers met after the parliament vote to discuss how torespond, but no decisions have been taken, she said. But Army Radiosaid fliers distributed at the outpost called for a "vigorousfight" and urged settlers and their supporters to turn out in largenumbers to resist the "injustice." Settler leaders have promised to resist the evacuation order,though they say their opposition will be peaceful. On Wednesdayevening, shortly after the parliament vote, police used stun gunsto disperse a group of about 40 settlers who were throwing rocks atPalestinian cars, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The violence raised fears of further attacks on Palestinians andtheir property, a tactic known as "price tag" that extremist Jewsuse to vent their anger at government action against settlers. Government officials, meanwhile, were working on Netanyahu'sunprecedented promise to physically uproot settler houses and movethem intact to a site about half a mile away. The project wouldbegin after the 150 Ulpana settlers are moved into state-fundedmobile homes, pending the relocation of their homes. Israel David, vice chairman of the Israeli Association ofConstruction and infrastructure Engineers, estimates the projectwould cost anywhere from $13 million to $25 million — and inthe end fail. "I don't think it's feasible, because of the topography and thetype of construction,' he said of the buildings, which each housesix apartments and are located on hilly ground.

He said it waspossible the structures would crumble while being transferred— just the scenario Netanyahu so hopes to avoid. Asked why he thought the government would undertake a project heprofessionally views as so quixotic, David replied: "It's a goodspin. No one did their homework on this.".

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