Yet Palestinians keep building in Judea & Samaria
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized the unprecedented decision by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to freeze all development in all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Despite recent comments by Prime Minister Olmert that Israel would treat construction in the major settlement blocs differently from building in most communities in Judea and Samaria, he has now categorically denied approval for all new construction tenders, including in the so-called consensus settlement blocs, which Israel intends to keep in any future peace accord with the Palestinians. The freeze also applies to the construction of public institutions, including schools and kindergartens.
The Prime Minister recently sent an official letter to relevant cabinet ministers instructing them to refrain from authorizing any construction without his and Defense Minister Ehud Baraks prior approval. Development plans — including schools and kindergartens — for Maale Adumim, Ariel, Efrat, and the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem — have all experienced a total construction freeze. The Mayor of Maale Adumim, Benny Kashriel, said that, I told the prime minister that I need another school and more kindergartens, by September, otherwise Ill bring the children to his office and they can study there (Haaretz, January 24, 2008).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, We are simply appalled at this decision and criticize it strongly because we see here an issue that goes beyond mere political disagreements. On previous occasions in Israels history, Israeli governments have undertaken, normally for limited periods, to build no new communities; to halt the territorial expansion of existing communities or to remove unauthorized outposts. But on no occasion has an Israeli government agreed to squelch the normal, natural growth and development of established communities within their pre-existing boundaries. When agreeing to the Oslo Accords in 1993, Prime Minister Rabin did not agree not to establish new settlements and also made it very clear that Israel would not choke off existing communities and would permit development in accordance with the natural growth of these communities. Indeed, Israel made no commitment in the Oslo agreements to stifling the natural growth of the communities.
The reason for this refusal was clear. Despite the deep and genuine Israeli interest in reaching peace with the Palestinians, no Israeli government was prepared to endorse the view that these communities are somehow illegitimate. Israel has always rejected the idea that it is illegal for Jews to live in Judea and Samaria. Regardless of the differing approaches of successive Israel governments to the question of territorial concessions, it has never accepted the notion that these territories must be judenrein.
This decision to freeze all growth within the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is all the more troubling and inappropriate in view of the fact that Mahmoud Abbas Palestinian Authority (PA) has done absolutely nothing to meet it signed commitments under the Oslo agreements to end terrorism and the incitement to hatred and murder in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps that feed it. Since the Annapolis summit, Fatah officials have said they will fight alongside Hamas if Israeli forces enter Gaza; Fatah terrorists have targeted Israeli civilians; Abbas, Saeb Erekat and other senior PA officials have stated that they will not accept Israel as a Jewish state; Abbas has approved a new Fatah poster showing Israel named Palestine and painted in Palestinian colors and Fatah television has displayed similar maps. Nor has Fatah amended its Constitution calling for Israels destruction and the use of terrorism as an essential element in the struggle to achieve that goal.
By agreeing for the first time to prohibit all natural growth and development within the confines of these communities, Prime Minister Olmert is basically endorsing the Palestinian Arab view that these communities are illegitimate and must therefore be stifled and then removed. We regard this as a dark day in the history of Zionism and we urge other American Jewish organizations, irrespective of their individual approach to the question of peace-making, to criticize this freeze. Even organizations that support large territorial concessions to the Palestinian Authority should be appalled at the implications of this move and the unjustified hardship and penalizing of these Jewish communities. Peace will not come to Israel by making Judea and Samaria judenrein.
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