Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
March 21, 2005 - 12:00am

Washington DC, Mar. 21 -- The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) expressed grave concerns about reports that the Israeli government has confirmed plans to build 3,500 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank in order to deepen its hold on Jerusalem. The leading Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that, “Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week approved the construction of 3,500 new homes to secure Greater Jerusalem." The new project, which will reportedly be constructed between occupied Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, is a breach of Israel's commitments under the Roadmap for Peace promoted by US President George W. Bush.

This follows a report in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that an aerial photography survey, commissioned by the Israeli Defense Ministry, has revealed that an additional 3,000 new homes are currently under construction in existing West Bank settlements.

ATFP cautioned that these major and strategically located construction projects could scuttle the diplomatic progress made since the election in January of the new Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israel should not view its Gaza withdrawal as a quid pro quo for increasing settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. ATFP urged the Bush Administration to use its good offices to ensure that this new settlement construction program does not go forward, and that neither side take steps to jeopardize the fragile cease-fire or abrogate their basic commitments under the Roadmap.

ATFP reaffirmed that the future of Jerusalem should be negotiated based on the following principles:

  1. A resolution of the issue of Jerusalem can only come about through direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian officials as an expression of their national policies. No other parties are entitled to negotiate on this issue.
  2. Jerusalem is a central part of the present and futures of both Palestinian and Israeli societies, and is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims around the world. Lasting peace can only be achieved by securing political aspirations of both peoples and religious rights of adherents to all three religions. The right of access to holy places and the right of worship in the city must be guaranteed for people of all faiths from around the world.
  3. There can be no monopoly of sovereignty by either party. Jerusalem should remain shared and undivided. The occupation of Arab East Jerusalem must end and it should serve as the capital of the future state of Palestine. West Jerusalem should serve as the capital of Israel.
  4. Unilateral measures taken by Israel since 1967 cannot be allowed to dictate or prejudice the final status of Jerusalem. Such measures include buildings, confiscation of land, barriers and walls, as well as political and legal documents.





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American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017