Israel must push for 1mn West Bank settlers, enough talk of two states – minister

Israel must push for 1mn West Bank settlers, enough talk of two states – minister
Israel's Jerusalem affairs minister is calling for sheer numbers to root out the very idea of a sovereign Palestinian state. He says about a million Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank should do the trick.

Speaking at the “On the Way to a Million” conference in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Ze'ev Elkin said: “This will happen – it is only a question of when.” According to the minister, Israel would require between 10 and 20 years to reach the 1 million mark, depending on the pace of settlement construction.

Elkin urged regional councils to develop plans for expansion of settlements even if construction approval by the Israeli authorities currently seems unlikely.

“Advance plans with all your might, as if it is possible today, as if you could create a zoning plan for 1,000 homes and execute it. If everyone does this, I believe that the numbers will become the reality of our lives,” he said, the Jerusalem Post reported. According to the minister, an increased number of Israelis in the West Bank “will change the entire outlook with regard to diplomacy security and settlements and will show everyone that there is no turning back here.”

The minister brushed aside the idea of a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank, using Arabic slang to make his point clearer. “Halas’ [enough] with the story of two states. There is no other option but the state of Israel, certainly between the Jordan [River] to the sea there will be one state,” Elkin said.

The UN has time and again condemned Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as a threat to peace, and repeatedly stressed there is no alternative to the two-state solution, where Israel and Palestine are both recognized as sovereign nations. Israel has been ignoring the international community's calls and steadily building more houses for its settlers on occupied land.

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In the first half of 2017, 646 settler houses broke ground in the West Bank, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics. The rate appears to be lower than last year, when the construction of 2,934 homes was begun.

The rate of construction would have to spike to 100,000-120,000 apartments per year to meet the 1 million mark, Elkin said. 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics’ data from 2016. But the UN statistics estimate that the number of people living in Israeli settlements is between 600,000 and 750,000.

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However, the Peace Now group, which monitors Israeli settlement in the West Bank, sounded the alarm over “unprecedented developments in the settlements (in the past few months), causing severe damage to the chances of a two-state solution.”According to the group, plans have been advanced for 6,742 new settler homes in 2017, with 3,154 construction tenders being issued.