Settlers vie for East Jerusalem
- The Christian Science Monitor
12 December 2003
Settlers vie for East Jerusalem: Construction began last week on a
new Israeli settlement with 600 housing units.
By Ben Lynfield
JERUSALEM - While attention is focused on the fate of far-flung West
Bank settlement outposts, Israel has launched a major settlement
thrust only a few miles from the Knesset in Jerusalem.
The bulldozers started grinding in the Palestinian area of Jabal
Mukaber last week to launch the largest settlement yet inside a
Nof Zahav, or Golden View, is to include 600 housing units, a hotel,
and a synagogue/community center. It will split Jabal Mukaber and
its more than 10,000 residents into two parts.
A pro-settlement party in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coalition
and critics alike say that Nof Zahav is a key link in an evolving
chain of settlements being built inside Arab areas to establish
Israeli domination over East Jerusalem and fragment it so it will be
impossible to have a viable Palestinian capital there.
"We break up Arab continuity and their claim to East Jerusalem by
putting in isolated islands of Jewish presence in areas of Arab
population," say Uri Bank, a leader of the pro-settlement Moledet
party. "Then we definitely try to put these together to form our own
continuity. It's just like Legos - you put the pieces out there and
connect the dots. That is Zionism. That is the way the state of
Israel was built. Our eventual goal is Jewish continuity in all of
Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Middle East war, but
the international community views it as occupied territory. The US
says Nof Zahav's construction is "inconsistent" with the peace
blueprint known as the road map, which calls for a viable
Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.
But Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and
Defense Committee, says, "It is our right and duty to build in
Jerusalem." He adds: "We are not committed to the road map because
the Palestinian prime minister is not fulfilling even its first
commitment of dismantling terrorist groups."
In Jabal Mukaber, Palestinians see the checkpoints set up on the
neighborhood's main road and the clusters of policemen with assault
rifles deployed to protect the construction as a preview of what
"People will have to go through checkpoints to get to work, to get
to school. There will be settlers here, full of hatred, waiting for
the day we will leave and they will have a pure Jewish
neighborhood," says Osama Zahaika, a Palestinian activist. He says
that part of the area the settlers and municipality have earmarked
for Nof Zahav is owned by his and other families, who are mounting a
Other land was purchased by an Israeli contractor, who is working
together with Elad, a settler group. Elad says the land for Nof
Zahav was acquired legally and that it has no intention of evicting
Dozens of Palestinians formed a human chain last week to prevent a
bulldozer from reaching the disputed land. Some were clubbed by
police, and one was treated in the hospital for his wounds.
Since 1967, Jerusalem's neighborhoods were almost all segregated
until Prime Minister Sharon spearheaded a drive into the Old City's
Muslim quarter during the 1980s. At present, about 2000 Jews live in
the Palestinian neighborhoods.
"Nof Zahav is for people who have a special connection to
Jerusalem," says Tzvi Goldwag, a spokesman for Elad. "The
attractiveness of buying there is not so much the location but the
view of the Old City, the City of David, and the Temple Mount," the
holiest site in Judaism and site of Al Aqsa mosque, the
third-holiest place in Islam. In recent years, Elad has settled 25
families in what it refers to as the City of David in the Arab
neighborhood of Silwan beneath the Old City walls. "I understand
that Nof Zahav annoys them but in the City of David we live with
them as neighbors and there are no fights. We're not best friends
but we respect them and they respect us."
But Moledet, the coalition partner that sponsors much of the East
Jerusalem settlement drive, openly espouses an exodus of
Palestinians from Jerusalem.
It says this will reduce the number of terrorist attacks. "We have
to make sure the number of Arabs in the city is brought down as much
as possible. They should be relocated in other areas in Israel or
abroad," says Mr. Bank. The more than 215,000 Palestinians in the
city comprise roughly a third of its population. Sprawling Jewish
settlements, considered suburbs by Israelis, have also been built in
East Jerusalem territory outside the Palestinian neighborhoods on
land expropriated from Palestinians.
Bank adds, "Everything that goes on in East Jerusalem is a microcosm
of what goes on in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. The basis for all of
this is that we've come home to our homeland. It was promised to the
children of Israel. All these areas belong first and foremost, if
not only, to the Jewish people."
Jeff Halper, a left-wing activist, says that even if the links in
the settlement chain seem disjointed for now, that will change with
the construction of a major highway system adjoining East Jerusalem
areas, part of which has already been built. "The road will open
this whole part of the city to Jewish development," he says.
Number of settlers rises 16 percent during Sharon's tenure
By Haaretz Service - Dec 30, 2003
The settler population has increased by 16 percent on average since
Prime Minister Ariel was elected to office in February 2001,
according to updated information released Tuesday by the Interior
The rate of population growth in settlements was three times higher
than in the Negev and Galilee regions.
According to the report, there were more than 236,000 people living in
settlements in the end of 2003.
In some isolated settlements the population increased significantly:
in the Gaza Strip settlement of Kfar Darom, the population increased
by 52 percent over the past three years; the population of Netzarim
grew by 24 percent during the same period of time; the number of
settlers in the West Bank settlement of Tapuah, near Nablus, grew by
50 percent and in Yitzhar by 30 percent.
In August this year Haaretz released Interior Ministry
data according to which more than half of the 145 settlements in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip grew by more than the 3 percent natural
growth rate, while 30 settlements recorded an overall drop in
A further 30 settlements grew, but by less than the natural growth
rate, according to the ministry data.
The figures showed that growth at 76 settlements was higher than the
natural growth rate, but that there was negative internal migration
throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip settlements.
The areas worst affected by negative or low growth rate were the
Jordan Valley, the northern West Bank and the Megilot area, north
east of Jerusalem.
The ultra-Orthodox towns of Immanuel and Ma'aleh Amos posted a
negative growth rate of 6 percent and 9 percent respectively,
compared to the 27 percent growth of Kochav Yaakov, also an ultra-
There was also a significant rise in the number of "ideological"
settlements, deep in the heart of Palestinian territory. Yitzhar grew
by 15.4 percent, Revava by 11.2 percent and Shavei Shomron by 9.8
percent - all way above the 5.75 percent average growth in the West
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