Despite a rift within the Israeli cabinet and international condemnation, Israel is determined to go ahead with plans to acquire 400 hectares in the West Bank, with the foreign minister saying it reflects “a wide-ranging consensus in Israeli society.”
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, said the country stands behind its decision to appropriate the land in the West Bank, a move that has already stoked tensions with Palestine and around the globe.
Speaking at a media conference with US Congressman Ed Royce, Liberman said”Gush Etzion reflects a wide-ranging consensus in Israeli society, and it’s clear to everyone that, as part of any settlements, Gush Etzion would remain a part of the state of Israel. I think we stand behind that decision,”the Jerusalem Post reported.
Meanwhile, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett said that the decision to take the land is“an answer to terrorism.”“We will continue to build our land…Hamas murders and we build,”Bennett said, according to the Israel Hayom newspaper.
Gush Etzionis a cluster of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Construction of a major settlement has been mooted since 2000, but had been previously abandoned due to the political fallout it would cause. There is a 45-day period for objections to be raised. Previously, it had been listed as survey land, a designation that prevented settlers and the army from bulldozing building plans through the planning system.
Israeli cabinet minister hits out at land grab plan
Finance Minister Yair Lapid was scathing of Israel’s decision to take over the land, slamming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying the move will damage Israel.
“We need more measured policy conduct, and not to generate unnecessary disputes with the United States and the world,”he said at the Calcalist conference in Tel Aviv, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. The decision to nationalize the land raised the question,”What is this good for, of all times, now?”
Israelhas been condemned by many nations around the world for their conduct during the IDF’s 50-day operation in Gaza, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians. Lapid said the timing of the decision could not be worse.
“This was a grab that was not brought before the cabinet and at this time simply causes damage to the State of Israel,”he said.”Part of responsible behavior is the question of when and how to do things,”Lapid said in a jibe aimed at Prime Minister Netenyahu.
Int’l community condemns Israel’s decision
There has been plenty of condemnation of Israel from abroad, including from some its staunchest allies. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was critical of the country’s decision to include areas beyond the Green Line, which separates the State of Israel, from territories captured during the Six Days War.
“The Secretary-General is alarmed by yesterday’s announcement by Israeli authorities to declare as so-called ‘state land’ nearly 1,000 acres of land in the Bethlehem area of the West Bank,”the UN chief’s office said in a statement.
“The seizure of such a large swathe of land risks paving the way for further settlement activity, which – as the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions – is illegal under international law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution.”
“The Secretary-General calls on Israel to heed the calls of the international community to refrain from settlement activity and abide by its commitments under international law and the Quartet road map,”the statement concluded.