Originally published at MintPress News.
JERUSALEM — While also calling for the construction of over 2,000 new Jewish-only homes on occupied Palestinian land, Israel’s prime minister recently denied that tensions between Israel and Palestine are mounting as a result of the growth of illegal settlements.
Israel approved about 2,200 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank at an Oct. 21 planning meeting, according to documents first obtained by Haaretz, with a goal of completing construction by 2030. The meeting occurred during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent trip to Washington, where he met with President Barack Obama, and International Business Times noted: “Commentators have highlighted the Israeli government made a similar move in 2010 when it announced the construction of 1,600 new settlement units just as US Vice President Joe Biden was arriving in Jerusalem.”
The approval also comes as Israel renews its controversial practice of demolishing Palestinian homes. The practice, like the settlements themselves, are widely condemned by governments and human rights organizations as a form of illegal collective punishment against an oppressed population.
Further, the decision was made during a month in which Israeli forces killed 76 Palestinians in clashes stemming from Israel’s moves to limit the number of Muslims worshipping at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound — a religious site considered sacred by both Jews and Muslims.
Netanyahu appeared Tuesday at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, where he defended Israel’s occupation of Palestine in an hour-long discussion with the center’s president, Neera Tanden, that was widely criticized by observers on social media for avoiding serious issues:
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) November 10, 2015
Netanyahu told Tanden that the expansion of illegal settlements were not a “core issue” contributing to rising tensions and the ineffectiveness of peace talks. He also claimed that there haven’t been any new settlements built for the past two decades. ThinkProgress, an editorially independent news site that’s funded by the Center for American Progress, highlighted these statements as two of the biggest falsehoods uttered by the prime minister during the discussion:
The United Nations, along with most of the world, considers Jewish settlements built on territory that Israel captured in 1967 to be illegal. This summer, the Palestinians presented documents to the International Criminal Court to investigate their continued construction as a war crime. The United States government — in both Republican and Democrat administrations — has also repeatedly insisted that settlement expansion hurts the peace process.
… The [Israeli] government has long given settlers a long leash by allowing new construction in the vicinity of older settlements to be defined as ‘neighborhoods’ and ‘outposts’ when they are, in practice, new settlements, sometimes on Palestinians’ private land. … Last year, as Secretary of State John Kerry attempted to broker a peace, Netanyahu’s government endorsed 13,851 new settlement housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — four times the amount of previous years.
Meanwhile, Israel is further provoking violence in the region by demolishing Palestinian homes, warned The Economist on Oct. 27, adding,
Human-rights groups call this collective punishment. Western governments condemn it. The Fourth Geneva Convention bars an occupying power from demolishing private homes except where ‘rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.’
Yet the practice has continued unabated. On Tuesday, the Israeli Supreme Court approved the demolition of five homes in the West Bank town of Nablus. On Thursday, Israel also planned to demolish an East Jerusalem home belonging to the family of a man who was shot during a deadly attack on an Israeli bus last month. Although the government accuses the families of being related to those taking part in anti-Israeli violence, this form of collective punishment is condemned as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.