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With New Units, Israel Moves to Expand Illegal Occupation in East Jerusalem

© AFP 2023 / GALI TIBBONPalestinian laborers work on a construction site in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish settlement in the mainly Palestinian eastern sector of Jerusalem, on October 30, 2013
Palestinian laborers work on a construction site in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish settlement in the mainly Palestinian eastern sector of Jerusalem, on October 30, 2013 - Sputnik International
Israel’s controversial decision to authorize more than 450 new settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem may be an attempt to get back at Europe for new product labeling guidelines.

It was announced on Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved the removal of a freeze on the building and selling of 436 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo settlement in East Jerusalem.

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The major project for expanding housing for Israelis on territories seized during the 1967 Six-Day War was launched back in 2010, but Israel had to put it on hold due to condemnation from the West. Now it seems the Israeli government has gotten over its fears of international criticism, as it gave the frozen project a green light and even added an extra 18 extra units to the Ramot settlement. All 454 units were put on the market on Monday, an official told Agence France-Presse.

According to Israeli NGO Ir Amim, which opposes settlement construction, the "announcement has only declaratory significance" and no new tenders have followed. However, "procedural steps to advance the plan could be taken at any time," the organization warned.

So what's behind the announcement while no tenders, or proposals for construction, have even been published? Israel was infuriated by the European Commission's new set of guidelines on marking products made in seized territories in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. According to the regulations, such goods should be labeled as "made in settlements," or even "product from Palestine" for goods produced in the West Bank.

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A statement from the Palestinian Authority condemned the Ramat Shlomo announcement, and Israeli settlements more broadly, as a "flagrant violation of international law" aimed at preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state, Al Jazeera reported.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed the Palestinian territories. The move was never recognized by the international community, and the settlements are considered illegitimate under international law.  

Around 200,000 Israelis currently live in 15 illegal settlements in East Jerusalem alongside a Palestinian population of 310,000.

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