Erekat: ‘Grinch’ Israel stole Christmas with settlement plans

Saeb Erekat laments Defense Ministry approval of 2,200 settlement housing units, urges international community to save the holiday spirit of peace and joy

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Saeb Erekat speaking at the Haaretz and New Israel Fund conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York on December 13, 2015. (Amir Levy/Flash90)
Saeb Erekat speaking at the Haaretz and New Israel Fund conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York on December 13, 2015. (Amir Levy/Flash90)

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat on Wednesday said that Israel had stolen the Christmas spirit by approving over 2,000 new housing units in West Bank settlements.

“While the world is celebrating Christmas with its spirit of peace and joy, the Grinch ‘occupation’ decided to steal the Christmas spirit from the people of Palestine,” Erekat said in a statement. “As part of his early election campaign, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has as well stolen more Palestinian land and resources for the benefit of Israel’s illegal colonial settlement expansion.”

Earlier the Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction advanced plans for over 800 West Bank homes, capping off a two-day session which saw the green-lighting of nearly 2,200 homes in total.

“Such illegal actions are a deliberate campaign to destroy the two-state solution and to prevent the establishment of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Erekat said.

“The world has to act before it is too late,” he continued. “In fact, Israel’s disregard and contempt to international law and legitimacy have been encouraged by the lack of international accountability, and therefore, the time has come for the world to end its double standards and to act with determination and courage to fulfill its responsibilities towards the people of Palestine.”

Arab workers are seen at construction site in the West Bank settlement of Ariel on January 25, 2017. (Sebi Berens/Flash90)

“It is of utmost urgency for the International Criminal Court to accelerate the process of investigating Israeli crimes, including its settlement enterprise. Further delays will cost more Palestinians lives, land, resources, and more suffering and despair, and we trust that Mrs. Fatou Bensouda will take this issue seriously,” Erekat said referring to the chief prosecutor at the ICC.

ICC prosecutors have been conducting a preliminary inquiry since 2015 in the Palestinian territories, including Israel’s settlement policy, crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the 2014 Gaza conflict and Hamas rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians.

Of the 839 home plans moved forward by the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee, 352 gained final approval for construction while 487 homes had their plans cleared through an earlier planning stage known as “deposit.”

On Tuesday, 1,352 homes were okayed by the High Planning Subcommittee, with 807 gaining final approval for construction and 545 clearing the earlier planning stage.

In total 2,191 settlement homes were advanced this week, of which 1,038 gained final approval for construction.

The sessions were scheduled on December 25 and 26, when many foreign governments who typically release statements of concern over settlement building were off for the Christmas holiday.

The Civil Administration’s sessions Tuesday and Wednesday were among the quarterly gatherings the Defense Ministry body holds, following a reported agreement with the White House to not hold more frequent sittings.

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