Israel is planning to expand its Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, and it plans to impose new restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, according to a new government plan unveiled on Monday.
The announcement came amid the worst unrest in decades, and a surge in attacks on Palestinians by Israeli forces and Palestinians.
The plan, approved by a cabinet meeting, would give the Israeli government the green light to expand settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, where the Jewish state has maintained a stranglehold since the 1967 Six-Day War.
In a move that could lead to further unrest, the plan calls for a “hard look” at plans to build additional settlements in Jerusalem and its West Bank and in East Hebron, a Palestinian enclave that Palestinians seek as their capital.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in a 1967 war and has maintained control over the whole city, with East Jerusalem occupied since October, when a UN-brokered agreement to evacuate its residents was signed.
The plans for further expansion of settlements come as Israel has struggled to contain an upsurge in violent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.
Israel is seeking to expand Jewish settlements to around 60,000 housing units in East, West and southern East Jerusalem to accommodate a potential Jewish majority of more than 10,000 in the holy city.
In the West, there are currently about 500,000 Jewish settlers in areas including Jerusalem, the Westbank, Ramallah and the Gaza Strip, according a report by the United Nations’ Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.
“We are going to start with building up, not only in East but in West and in southern East and in the West bank,” Israel’s Minister of Housing Uri Ariel told cabinet ministers at the meeting, according with Channel 10 TV.
“We want to build up in areas that are already occupied and have been occupied, which is what the Palestinian refugees are trying to achieve.”
The announcement comes just a day after Israel’s Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, told Channel 10 television that the government would move to impose further restrictions on movement of the Palestinian population in East and West Jerusalem.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters in Ramallah on Monday that he had met with Ariel to discuss further measures to ease the situation in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Hassan Barak said last month that the PA would take measures to ensure the security of its people and the security and welfare of the West out of all areas of the occupied territories.
The Palestinians’ main concern is that these new plans will pave the way for the establishment of a Jewish majority in the capital, he said.
“This is the main reason that we want the Palestinians to leave the occupied East, in order to move to a state of their own, where there is security and security for their families, for their lives,” he said at the time.