NGO: Israel to build 450 new units in West Bank

Housing Ministry says tenders were approved in the past, reissued automatically after construction did not take place; PLO condemns ‘war crime’

The Israeli government on Friday published tenders to build 450 settler homes in the West Bank, the head of an NGO that monitors settlement activity told AFP, in what a senior PLO official called a “war crime.” The Housing Ministry denied the tenders were new.

“It’s the opening of the settlement floodgates,” said Daniel Seidemann, head of the Terrestrial Jerusalem group, adding that the announcements were the first since October 2014 and unlikely to be the last before the March 17 general election.

He said that the new homes were to be built in four existing settlements across the West Bank — with 114 in Adam, 156 in Elkana, 78 in Alfei Menashe and 102 in Kiryat Arba.

The Housing Ministry told Israel Radio that the tenders in question had been issued in the past, and were renewed automatically since construction did not take place after its initial approval.

A senior Palestinian official said the measure constituted a “war crime.”

“What the Israelis announced is part of a wider war… against the Palestinian people,” Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Wassel Abu Yusef told AFP.

“This is a war crime which should push the settlements issue to the International Criminal Court.”

Seidemann, whose group particularly monitors construction in Jewish neighborhoods over the pre-1967 lines in East Jerusalem, predicted that building plans there were likely to be announced soon.

“I don’t think it’s over,” he said. “I would be very concerned.”

He linked the new tenders to the election in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is competing with other right-wing parties for the settler vote.

“This could hardly be an accident,” he said. “It could not have taken place without Netanyahu’s knowledge and consent.”

On October 1, 2014, a Jerusalem committee gave its final approval to advance the construction of some 2,500 housing units in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Hamatos for both Jewish and Arab residents. The announcement drew an unusually sharp rebuke from the US, as Washington officials said the move would distance Israel from “even its closest allies” and raise questions about its commitment to seeking peace with Palestinians.

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