Palestine/Israel News and Information

New Jewish Settlement in Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem Old City near Al Aqsa Mosque could ignite a Third Intifada


The Palestine Monitor A PNGO Information Clearinghouse UPDATE

27 July 2005

Israeli planners have approved the construction of a new Jewish settlement in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City meters away from the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest Islamic site in the world. Ori Shitreet, chief engineer at the Jerusalem municipality, initially rejected the project because it “conflicts with plans to preserve the old city,” but approved it later on.

The plan is to build 30 new apartments for Jews only on three dunams (three-quarters of an acre) of land near the Al Aqsa Mosque as well as a recreational area for the 16 Jewish families who currently live in the Muslim Quarter in settlements under heavy guard. A synagogue is also planned to be built in the Muslim Quarter.

Palestinian and some Israeli officials call these plans a blatant attempt to create facts on the ground and ethnically cleanse the Old City’s historic Muslim Quarter, an act of overt incitement, while the world is distracted by the Gaza Disengagement. Israel’s tactic of seizing Palestinian lands and declaring them “green areas,” which Palestinians are forbidden from building on, and later turning these lands over to settlements is one of its most insidious tools for strangling East Jerusalem with illegal settlements in an attempt to take the city off the negotiating table, in clear violation of international law.

Palestinians have always insisted that there can be no peace without Israel returning Arab East Jerusalem, which they captured and illegally annexed in 1967, to the Palestinians for the capital of their future state. International law unambiguously backs this position, and for the Israeli government to prejudice the status of the city in such an provocative way at such a sensitive time belies their lack of interest in a just and peaceful solution to these conflicts.

Such a provocation could spark even more unrest than Sharon’s infamous visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in September 2000 with scores of armed guards, the spark that touched off the powder keg of the Second Intifada.

Israel has not abandoned plans to destroy the homes of over a thousand Palestinians living in the Silwan neighborhood near Jerusalem’s Old City in order to construct an archeological park. Such moves are obviously political and, along with Israel’s unilateral removal of between 55,000 and 100,000 Palestinians from Jerusalem with its illegal Wall, might spark a crisis in the Middle East that could have global implications.

Sharon has admitted that the Wall and new settlements are being built for political purposes and that his Gaza disengagement is a tactical decision designed to strengthen Israel’s hold on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Gaza strip has only 8,000 settlers living on approximately 20% of Gaza’s land among over a million Palestinians.

While the Disengagement has been grabbing headlines for months, thousands of illegal settlement housing units have been constructed in the West Bank in an attempt to prejudice final status negotiations and thwart plans for a just, negotiated, peaceful resolution to the decades-long conflicts.

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