The Abu Ghneim (Har Homa) settlement

Betsy Barlow asked me to forward this to the Friends of Sabeel list. This is an urgent message regarding the building of the Har Homa settlement in the Jerusalem/Bethlehem area. For those that don't know about Har Homa (or Abu Ghneim in Arabic) this is a "green" area in the West Bank, just outside of Bethlehem. It is the last vestige of green trees in this area, and is used for grazing and is honored for its beauty. The Israeli Government has been planning to build a large settlement on Mount Homa, with the stated plans of annexing this Palestinian land as part of the city of Jerusalem.

This will be a devastating event for the Palestinians, especially those of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour, and will likely stifle the "Peace Process." The Israeli's are in violation of the September, '95 Oslo II accord, which states, in Article 31, paragraph 7: Neither side shall initiate or taek any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.

The rest of this message is from Betsy Barlow: Lets forward this to our list, asking people to ask the State Dept, the Pres. and Senators and Reps point blank if they are in favor of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. If they say "yes," we remind them that the head of Shin Bet has told the government that this will set off a firestorm and kill the peace process.

The US MUST stop this proposal. We could cut off ALL funding. We could remove tax-exempt status from funds that go to Israel to work against US foreign policy objectives. We could remove the possibility of dual citizenship for US citizens with Israel--or at least those who serve in the armed forces, where they may be called upon to commit violent acts against Palestinians.

We could ask for a South African style boycott of Israeli products until the government of Israel stops breaking international law and flouting UN resolutions and US policy interests.

THIS IS URGENT!! Let's get as many calls as possible done in the next 3 days!

Israeli PM vows to build disputed Jerusalem project

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged on Wednesday to build a new Jewish neighbourhood in Arab East Jerusalem over Palestinian objections, his spokesman said.

Netanyahu went to parliament for talks with opposition and government lawmakers on the plan to construct 6,500 Jewish homes at Jabal Abu Ghneim or Har Homa, a hill of pine trees between Jerusalem and Bethlehem captured by Israel in 1967.

Right-wing coalition partners and several members of the main opposition Labour party have been pressing Netanyahu to give the green light for the construction.

"The prime minister told parliament members he intends to build in all parts of Jerusalem including in the Har Homa neighbourhood," Netanyahu's spokesman said in a statement.

"The decision on a date will be made at the meeting of the ministerial committee on Jerusalem next week," he said.

Netanyahu also told lawmakers the possibility of building Arab homes in part of Har Homa was "under examination", the spokesman said.

Critics said the plan would spark Palestinian rage that could prove more costly than gun battles in which 61 Arabs and 15 Israeli soldiers died last year after Netanyahu opened a new entrance to a tunnel near Moslem holy sites in Jerusalem.

The PLO wants Arab East Jerusalem, captured by Israel along with the rest of the West Bank in 1967, to be the capital of a future Palestinian state and has called Israeli housing projects an attempt to cement the Jewish state's hold over all of the city. Israel views all of Jerusalem as its capital.

Faisal Husseini, the Palestinian official responsible for Jerusalem, said the PLO would view Netanyahu's approval of the Har Homa plan as a "decision of war".

While Netanyahu met legislators in parliament, 13 rightist lawmakers made a high-profile visit to a hill above the Har Homa site on the Israeli-designated boundary of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"We came here to show the urgent need to build at Har Homa and anywhere in Jerusalem," said Moshe Peled of the ultranationalist Tsomet party, part of Netanyahu's government. "I fear a violent struggle but we must not flinch from it."

Netanyahu denied on Tuesday having pledged to freeze the project in talks with U.S. President Bill Clinton at the White House last week.

The Likud party leader used the "unity" of Jerusalem as a rallying cry in Israel's national election campaign last year, accusing Labour Prime Minister Shimon Peres of planning to redivide the city.

The matter is awkward for Labour, which supports trading occupied Arab land for peace. Opinion polls show Israelis overwhelmingly favour keeping all of Jerusalem.

Peres tried to straddle the issue when talking to Israel Radio on Wednesday after seeing Netanyahu: "We support Jerusalem unity but everything must be measured on its own merit -- the right hour and manner and the good or damage it will bring."

The United States on Tuesday criticised a decision by an Israeli ministerial committee on Jerusalem to speed up the building of roads in and around East Jerusalem.

"We would have preferred that the action just taken by the Israeli government not have been taken at this time," State Department spokesman Glyn Davies said. Davies declined comment on the Har Homa project.