Israel 'still expanding West Bank settlements'
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Telegraph - Israel 'still expanding West Bank settlements'


Quote:By Tim Butcher, Middle East Correspondent
(Filed: 21/10/2005)


Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, yesterday accused Israel of building Jewish settlements in the West Bank at a faster rate than ever before, breaching the "road map" peace plan.

His remarks were supported by a leading Israeli human rights group which found that the Israeli government last year oversaw a large influx of Jewish settlers into the West Bank, outweighing the 7,500 settlers withdrawn from Gaza this summer.

The barrier is nearing completion

"Israel has accelerated its settlement expansion in the Palestinian heartland," Mr Abbas wrote in The Wall Street Journal ahead of a meeting with President George W Bush in Washington. "The 26 months since Israel announced its plans to disengage from Gaza have witnessed the highest rate of West Bank settlement construction in all the occupation years."

The road map obliges Israel to freeze all settlement activity. Israel argues the plan is stalled until the Palestinian Authority stops the extremist groups that employ terror tactics against Israel.

Speaking after an hour-long meeting with Mr Abbas, Mr Bush called on Israel to stop building West Bank settlements. He said Israel would be "held to account" for any actions that hamper peacemaking or burden Palestinians, but offered no idea what sanctions could be imposed.

The report by Settlement Watch found that the loss of 7,500 Jewish settlers from Gaza will be outweighed by the arrival this year of 14,000 residents in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Mr Bush said Mr Abbas must begin by "confronting the threat that armed gangs pose to a genuinely democratic Palestine". For the Palestinians, the most pressing concern is that Israel is no longer pursuing a negotiated agreement but wants to impose a settlement, using the West Bank separation barrier, which is nearing completion, to define its borders.

The security fence, which Israel claims is intended solely to stop suicide bombers, has in effect annexed 10 per cent of the West Bank.

Advisers to Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, argue that unilateralism is better for Israel as it would enable it to grab land and create an infrastructure of roads, perimeter fences and population centres as a de facto border.

Unilateralism was the thinking behind the withdrawal from Gaza. It was done on terms dictated by the Israelis, not negotiated with the Palestinians. The willingness to go it alone comes, in part, from signals sent by the Bush administration.

Last year, Mr Bush wrote to Mr Sharon indicating that America would not insist on Israel giving up all the land it occupied in 1967.
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Quote:(QUOTE: SHARON ADVISOR, DOV WEISGLASS) "The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.

"The significance is the freezing of the political process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. AND ALL OF THIS WITH AUTHORITY AND PERMISSION. ALL WITH A PRESIDENTIAL BLESSING (from George Bush) AND THE RATIFICATION BY BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS (of the United States).

"... IN REGARD TO THE LARGE SETTLEMENT BLOCS, THANKS TO THE (US approved) DISINGAGEMENT PLAN, WE HAVE IN OUR HANDS A FIRST-EVER AMERICAN STATEMENT THAT (THE SETTLEMENTS) WILL BE PART OF ISRAEL ... OUT OF 240,000 SETTLERS, 190,000 WILL NOT BE MOVED FROM THIER PLACE. WILL NOT BE MOVED.

“What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all,” Weisglass said, “and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns.” (Senior Advisor to Ariel Sharon, Dov Weisglass speaking to Israeli newspaper, Haaretz)

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