Netanyahu Visits East Jerusalem Settlement to Woo Voters

JERUSALEM, March 16, 2015 (WAFA) – Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu Monday visited the East Jerusalem Israeli settlement of ‘Har Homa’ in a last-minute ditch to win voters over on the eve of the highly anticipated Israeli parliamentary elections.

On the final day of his electoral campaign, Netanyahu, the Likud’s party candidate running for general elections, vowed that if re-elected, he would build thousands of settlement units in East Jerusalem.

Israeli and international media sources, including AFP, reported that Netanyahu vowed he would never allow Palestinians to have East Jerusalem as their capital. “I won’t let that happen. My friends and I in Likud will preserve the unity of Jerusalem,” Netanyahu was quoted.

“We will continue to build in Jerusalem, we will add thousands of housing units, and in the face of all the (international) pressure, we will persist and continue to develop our eternal capital,” he added.

The hilltop settlement was constructed during Netanyahu’s first term as a premier in a part of the occupied West Bank that Israel unilaterally annexed along with East Jerusalem after 1967 War.

For Palestinians, the mountain is known as Jabal Abu Ghneim and its construction has been widely viewed as an attempt to prevent territorial contiguity between the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as to tighten Israeli control around the holy city.

According to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, starting in 1997, hundreds of dunums of Palestinian land from Beit Sahour district were confiscated for the construction of ‘Har Homa’ (Abu Ghneim) settlement in addition to the construction of Israeli bypass roads which link ‘Har Homa’ to the Israeli settlements in Jerusalem, settlements south of Bethlehem, and to the settlements in the West (Gush Etzion settlement bloc).

It noted that the area of Abu Ghneim was reclassified from a nature reserve to a construction area in 1997 in order to build the settlement.

Approximately 60,000 trees were gradually uprooted by Israeli bulldozers in order to construct the settlement. It currently occupies a total area of 2,205 dunums with more than 5,000 Israeli settlers reside in it.

Har Homa settlement is considered the third largest Israeli settlement, in terms of land size, among the nineteen settlements constructed in Bethlehem, after Betar ‘Illit and Gilo settlements.

Israeli plans and announcement of tenders to construct units in this settlement, as it is the case with the rest of West Bank settlements, have been internationally condemned and considered as a flagrant violation of the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians. These settlements are viewed as an obstacle to the final status negotiations between the two sides.