Minister asserts right to build beyond ‘Auschwitz borders’

Laying cornerstone at new West Bank settlement neighborhood, Uri Ariel says the two-state solution ‘will never happen’

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

A construction worker pours concrete into a foundation piling at a construction site in the West Bank. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
A construction worker pours concrete into a foundation piling at a construction site in the West Bank. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home party) on Sunday said the government would continue to construct houses beyond the Green Line and claimed that negotiations with the Palestinians would never yield a two-state solution.

“Anyone here today understands that the vision of two states is unrealistic and will never happen,” Ariel stated at a cornerstone laying ceremony at Leshem, a new neighborhood adjacent to the settlement of Alei Zahav in Samaria. “Whoever thinks we can be forced to build only within the Auschwitz borders is wrong.” Some consider Leshem, which is being marketed separately from Alei Zahav, and where the first families recently entered their homes, to be a new settlement.

The term “Auschwitz borders” was coined by the legendary Israeli diplomat Abba Eban in 1969 to counter demands that Israel relinquish control of the West Bank.

Palestinians have warned that Israeli construction beyond the Green Line could undermine recently renewed peace talks.

“I’m here to build you an apartment, [like] we’re doing all over the country,” Ariel said. Citing both ideological and economic concerns, he said he’d push for the construction of as many apartments as possible. “We’re building in Jerusalem just as we’re building in the Galilee,” he said.

MK Ofir Akunis — a prominent Likud member and deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office — said that “the construction in Judea and Samaria will continue, so that no Palestinian state is founded here.”

Akunis cited ongoing strife in other Middle Eastern countries as proof to the effect that a Palestinian state should not be established. “Today we say to our friends in Washington, in London, and in Europe: We built in Judea and Samaria — and we’ll continue to build,” he said.

In June, Akunis charged that the Palestinians weren’t true partners to negotiations “because they continuously torpedo attempts to resume peace talks and reject Israel’s repeated calls to meet without preconditions.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted his support for a demilitarized Palestinian state, but some government officials have asserted that they would act to foil any attempt to establish such a state.

The statements by the Israeli officials came as the Jerusalem municipality pushed forward with plans to construct 1,500 apartments in the Jewish neighborhoods in the east of the city.

City spokeswoman Brachie Sprung said city officials had approved plans to lay down the infrastructure for the project. She called the move a “standard and bureaucratic process” and said final government approval was still required. Actual construction is still years away, she said.

Still, the move comes just after Israelis and Palestinians resumed talks after a five-year stalemate. Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is one of the thornier issues separating the two sides.

The city is pushing development in the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, a project that has also raised tensions with the US. Israel first announced the plans in 2010 during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, sparking a diplomatic rift with Washington that took months to mend.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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