Har Homa is only one of six new settlement plans

As world attention focuses on the tragic events unfolding in this area, it becomes even more important to understand the context in which the current situation has developed. Continuing settlement expansion, house demolition, closure, torture, continued administrative detention - these Israeli occupation policies have resulted in a growing dispossession, desperation and isolation of the Palestinian people.

On 18 March, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu executed the fateful decision to begin construction on Abu Ghneim mountain of the new Jewish settlement of "Har Homa" or Mount Wall. As bulldozers dug into the land on the mountain, reaction was at first muted as the Palestinian Authority attempted to keep protests peaceful. The bulldozers continued their work despite repeated warnings from the Israeli military establishment that Palestinian reaction could not be predicted.

On 19 March, violent protests erupted in the Bethlehem area in response to the construction, resulting in tens wounded and highlighting the increasingly tense atmosphere in the region. On 20 March, protests and confrontations occurred in the Hebron area, in response to the increasingly hostile policies of the Netanyahu administration.

But Har Homa is not the only new Jewish settlement planned by this government and threatening the territorial and demographic integrity of East Jerusalem. In fact construction activity in the illegal Jewish settlements of Jerusalem and the West Bank continues at an accelerated pace. The current Israeli government feels no compulsion to protect any "status quo" of the Occupied Territories as stipulated in the Oslo agreements, and in fact makes it a point to openly violate this understanding.

New Settlements in Jerusalem:

In addition: In January, the Israeli government offered for sale some 1500 of 3000 housing units in the West Bank, whose sale had been frozen by the previous Labor administration as part of the Israeli obligations under the Oslo Accords. The government also announced preferred development status for the settlements of the West Bank, offering generous mortgage options and up to 50% discounts on development charges. Also in January, the Israeli government announced the planned construction of 4,553 new housing units in the West Bank in six different West Bank settlements.

These announcements of unilateral construction and the creation of new settlements on Arab lands in the Occupied Palestinian Territories reflect a radical rejection of the understandings come to in the Oslo agreements. Continuing Israeli policies in these areas have served to lay the foundations for heightening tension and a growing despair that a just peace can ever be achieved. Palestinian frustration and international condemnation have not slowed settlement expansion or house demolition, but rather these policies and the growing dispossession and hopelessness of the Palestinian people help explain the violence which has scarred this region yet again.

LAW condemns the violence committed against the Palestinian people in the form of land confiscation, settlement expansion, the construction of new settlements, house demolition, closure, torture and administrative detention, as LAW condemns all acts of violence. LAW demands that the Israeli government halt all illegal and provocative acts in the Occupied Territories, and calls on the international community and all concerned parties to demand that the United States re-examine its foreign aid policy to the Israeli government, without which continuing Israeli occupation and settlement construction would not be possible.

LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organization, dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy. LAW is also an affiliate member of the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights.