In a report issued today, Israeli peace group Ir Amim cautioned that even as the US was negotiating with Israel on a possible settlement freeze, the nation was dramatically accelerating the growth of settlements in East Jerusalem, a move the group cautioned was an “urgent threat” to the prospect of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinian Authority, which has sought East Jerusalem as its capital.
The report went on to note that though the expansion activity was largely being done by private groups, they were part of “a strategic move, coordinated and facilitated by national governmental units” to implant a Jewish population “precisely in the areas of the most intense dispute in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
One of the most controversial incidents in recent weeks involved the eviction of more than 50 Palestinians from homes in East Jerusalem which they bought in 1958, when it was Jordanian territory. The government claimed the same homes had been bought by Jews during the Ottoman Empire era, and kicked the families into the street to use the land for a new settlement.
At the time the US formally protested the move, calling it unduly provocative. Last week however it was reported that the US had reached a deal with the Israeli government whereby they would stop criticizing the settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied militarily in 1967 and now insists is the eternal, undivided capital of its nation.