Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
February 16, 2009 - 1:00am

Washington DC, Feb. 16 – The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) today urged the United States government to use its influence to work with the Israeli government to stop announced plans for a major expansion of the Givat Ha'eytam settlement in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli occupation Civil Administration has reportedly declared 1,700 dunams (approximately 370 acres) of land in the northern part of the Efrat settlement, south of Jerusalem between Bethlehem and Hebron, to be “state land,” which sets the stage for the potential construction of 2,500 new settlement housing units. This settlement is particularly sensitive given that it would help complete a ring of hilltop settlements in Efrat that threaten to cut Arab East Jerusalem off from the West Bank.

ATFP called on President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as leading members of Congress, to use all of their influence to ensure that these provocative and dangerous settlement plans are not pursued. ATFP, and many others including numerous US officials and members of Congress, have frequently pointed out that settlement activity constitutes the most significant threat to the long-term viability and credibility of an end-of-conflict agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Any additional settlement activity intensifies the core problem, complicates the creation of a Palestinian state to live alongside Israel in peace and security, and undermines Palestinian and Arab public opinion regarding Israeli intentions to achieve a reasonable agreement. This planned settlement is particularly problematic given that it would continue the process of separating Arab East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank and undermine prospects that East Jerusalem could serve as the capital of a Palestinian state, which is a key requirement of any viable peace agreement.

Coming in the immediate aftermath of the Gaza war, these announced settlement plans are particularly dangerous. ATFP President Ziad Asali said, “it is vital that President Obama and his Administration, as well as leaders in Congress, mobilize American influence and our strategic relationship with Israel to make it clear that any continuation of settlement activity, particularly in and around Jerusalem, is in neither the Israeli nor the American national interest. Settlement activity threatens the very prospect of a viable, reasonable peace agreement. One of the most urgent and important expressions of American leadership on peace in the Middle East must be to move quickly to help prevent major setbacks such as this proposed major expansion in Givat Ha'eytam, and preserve the viability of a two state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.”


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