Israel approves new settlement bloc —”slap in face” to peace process

The Israeli government March 9 approved construction of a 330-unit housing project in Givat Zeev, a West Bank settlement already home to about 10,000 settlers. The project began in 1999 but was suspended when the second Intifada broke out the following year. Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the project “another slap in the face of the peace process.” Defending the decision, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said: “We’ve said all along that there won’t be a complete freeze in construction in the large settlement blocks. We’ve been very consistent and upfront.”

Yet Olmert himself said in a January interview with the Jerusalem Post: “Every year all the settlements in all the territories [of the West Bank] continue to grow. There is a certain contradiction in this between what we’re actually seeing and what we ourselves promised… We have obligations related to settlements and we will honor them.”

US Air Force Lt. Gen. William Fraser III, a Bush administration envoy, is scheduled to arrive in Israel this week for joint meetings that will assess each side’s fulfillment of its obligations under the “Road Map” agreement. (LAT, March 10)

In Gaza, Hamas strongly criticized Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for continuing the negotiations with the Israeli government at a time when children and women in Gaza are being killed by the Israeli troops. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri accused the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority of acting as a proxy for Israel and the US: “The talk about a tripartite meeting…in the coming days, is an attempt to ensure the American-Israeli tightening of the Ramallah policy of repression against the resistance forces in the West Bank, particularly against the Hamas.” He said the negotiations are “aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause and the…resistance.” (Ma’an News Agency, March 9)

See our last posts on Israel/Palestine.