The Israelis have been doing this kind of thing for more than three decades now. They say one thing, yet they relentlessly and often surreptitiously do another. The U.S. has helped make it all happen. The world has let it happen.
And now in 2004 there is 'the wall', the 'clash of civilizations', and the expenditure of so much human treasure on conflict and warfare.
Tuesday 27th July 2004
The Guardian (UK)
Israel expands West Bank settlements
Aerial photos reveal extent of land grab, say peace groups
Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Months after Ariel Sharon announced his dramatic plan to pull Jewish
settlers out of Gaza, portraying it as a sacrifice for peace, the government
is grabbing more land for West Bank settlements.
Israeli peace groups and Palestinian officials say thousands of homes are
under construction in the main settlements, in addition to an expansion of
Jewish outposts that are illegal under Israeli law. Mr Sharon has promised
the US he will dismantle the outposts, which are usually clusters of
containers or trailer homes serviced by government-built roads, but has
failed to do so.
One Israeli group, Settlement Watch, says in the three months to May, West
Bank settlements expanded by 26 hectares (65 acres).The government has
approved construction of thousands more homes in the three main settlement
blocs on the West Bank, encouraged by an apparent endorsement by George Bush
for their eventual annexation.
In a letter to Mr Sharon, Mr Bush praised the Gaza pullout and agreed that
"in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major
Israeli populations centres", it was unrealistic to expect a full return to
the 1967 borders.
Dror Etkes, head of Settlement Watch, said that the expansion of Jewish
outposts and continuing house building since Mr Sharon announced his plan in
December was evidence that the government was seeking more territory.
"The government is trying to push the boundaries of the settlements as much
as possible before they are frozen," he said. "The new rule of the game we
have seen in past weeks is the diameter of permitted construction area in
the West Bank has grown. The purpose is to expand as fast as possible
because of negotiations with the US to limit future construction to areas
already under construction."
American officials have been appointed to agree limits to settlement
expansion in order, Washington says, to preserve land for a future
Palestinian state. Mr Sharon is pressing the US to allow building to
continue in areas already under construction, to cater for the "natural
growth" in families.
But Settlement Watch says aerial photographs reveal that in some
settlements, construction has begun on the outer limits of the municipal
boundaries, often some distance from the settlement. It believes the
government will claim the right to build on the intervening territory or use
the outposts to link settlements.
The pictures show new houses, roads and other infrastructure around about 12
of the 90 or more outposts, sometimes linking them to established colonies.
Last week Ephraim Sneh, an opposition Labour party MP, presented photographs
of the outposts and infrastructure expansion to his party's caucus in
"In blunt violation of the promise to the US president, the government
doesn't dismantle the illegal outposts. With government money they are
expanded, asphalt roads are paved - all the necessary preparations to turn
them into permanent settlements," he told the Guardian.
"It casts a shadow on the real intent of Sharon's disengagement plan. The
disengagement may be just a cover for the real intention of the prime
minister to deepen and solidify the Israeli hold in the West Bank." He added
that the expansion was possible only with official cooperation. "It can't be
done without government encouragement and financing," he said. In May, the
state comptroller said Israel's housing ministry had illegally funnelled
about £3.8m to fund unauthorised settlement expansion, half of it to the
Last month, the defence and finance ministries authorised a £37m budget to
fortify settlements outside the steel and concrete barrier Israel is
building through the West Bank. Last week, it was revealed that dozens of
prefabricated homes which the government had authorised for established
settlements were sent to the outposts.
"This is a well-placed deal cut between the settlers in the area and the
ministry of defence," said Mr Etkes. "If they're dismantling at times there
is the immediate intensification of construction of another outpost in the
The government is offering additional incentives to persuade Israelis to
move to empty housing on the settlements and newly arrived Jews frequently
find themselves placed there. But concrete and asphalt are more important
than people in staking Israel's claim to the West Bank.
Last month, Shaul Mofaz, the defence minister, told the civil administration
in the West Bank - which is under military control - to draw up plans for
rapid expansion of the Etzion settlement block near Bethlehem. In recent
weeks, the government has approved expansion of Efrat, part of Etzion bloc,
which is also expanding into what was the Palestinian village of Walaja.
"The land was taken by the Jewish National Fund," said Jeff Halper, a
veteran Israeli campaigner against settlement expansion. "Almost every house
has a demolition order."
Mr Mofaz also reassured settlers' leaders of continued expansion of the
other two main blocs in the West Bank, Ariel and Ma'ale Adumim, which
already eat into Palestinian territory.
Mr Halper said that the government planned to more than double the size of
Ma'ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, to provide homes for about 70,000 people
Ehud Olmert, Israel's deputy prime minister, who rarely makes policy
statements without Mr Sharon's approval, recently said that Jewish West
Jerusalem must grow to Ma'ale Adumim.
The Israelis are also looking further east to Mitzpe Jericho, which is home
to about 1,500 people. Giant billboards picturing clusters of blocks of
flats mark the limits of the municipality several miles from the existing
"The government plans to link Jerusalem to Ma'ale Adumim and Ma'ale Adumim
to Mitzpe Jericho. Eventually it will all fall under the Jerusalem
municipality. Jerusalem is being transformed from a city into a region,"
said Mr Halper.
Mr Sharon's spokesman, Raanan Gissin, denied West Bank settlements were
being expanded, saying that construction remains within the existing
"Anything that is illegal will be removed as the prime minister has promised
the Americans," he said of the outposts.
Critics say the argument about boundaries is part of the deception because
the government has drawn them beyond the settlements in order to allow for
considerable expansion. Settlement Watch says the government's lack of
sincerity can be seen in its failure to provide a full list of illegal
outposts to the US. The government admits to only 28 outposts. Settlement
Watch says there are 91, of which 51 were established after Mr Sharon came
to power and therefore should have been removed under an agreement with the