Israel continues settlement expansion

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Israel has announced two new housing projects in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, continuing to expand its settlements. Officials have stated that a bill to be approved by parliament this week, would set aside $25 million for the expansion of development projects in Har Homa and Maale Adumim. The bill would create 500 apartments in the Har Homa area and another 240 in Maale Adumim.

Last month, both Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert signed a statement of "joint understanding" at the 2007 Annapolis Conference in Maryland. This signalled the first peace agreement between the two parties in more than seven years.

However, many fear that settlement expansions will cause tension amid new peace agreements.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, "This is a totally destructive policy. Every day we hear a new settlement expansion plan - this cannot be tolerated."

However, Rafi Eitan, Israeli Minister for Jerusalem Affairs offered a different stance.

"Har Homa is an integral part of Jerusalem and Israel will not stop building there. It is Israel's duty to provide its citizens with a place to live."

Earlier this month, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took a critical stance on the passage of another bill outlining the construction of 307 apartment units in Har Homa, saying that the expansion would "not help build confidence for peace talks."

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Six-Day War.


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