Punitive campaign: Israel unveils tenders for new settler homes

Illegal under international law

JERUSALEM - Israel's construction and housing ministry on Wednesday published tenders for 1,121 settler homes, most of them them in annexed east Jerusalem, with others in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
Of that number, 872 are to be built in Har Homa, a contentious settlement neighbourhood in the southern part of Arab east Jerusalem, according to documents published on the ministry website.
Another 180 are to be built in Givat Zeev, just to the north of Jerusalem, while the remaining 69 are to be built in Katzrin in the occupied Golan Heights, the documents showed.
A ministry spokesman dismissed the tenders as "nothing new," but settlement activists said it was the first time the offers had been made public.
"Yesterday there were no tenders for Har Homa C, today there are tenders for Har Homa C," said Daniel Seidemann, director of Terrestrial Jerusalem, an Israeli NGO which tracks developments in east Jerusalem.
"If the ministry is suggesting they are not new tenders, they are living in a parallel universe," he said, saying most of the tenders there were for construction in area C, a new part of the settlement neighbourhood.
Seidemann said the tenders were part of the punitive campaign Israel vowed to wage against the Palestinians after they won membership at the UN cultural organisation, UNESCO.
In early November, Israel said it would build 2,000 new settler homes in response to UNESCO's decision to accept Palestine as a member, of which 1,650 homes were to be built in east Jerusalem.
"This is crossing the Rubicon," said Seidemann. "This is not a planning stage. This is implementation. The contractors who have won the tenders will be selected after 60 days and then work can begin."
Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the Syrian Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War.
It considers all of Jerusalem its "eternal, undivided" capital and does not see construction there as settlement building.
But the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised state, and furiously denounce settlement construction in the eastern sector of the city.
The international community considers all Israeli settlement on occupied land to be illegal under international law.