Israel to continue building West Bank settlements
* Sharon says the Jewish state will not carry out further unilateral withdrawals
JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said Israel would continue to build in the West Bank and would not carry out further unilateral withdrawals like the one from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank currently underway, an official said Monday, confirming a published report.
“There will be building in the settlement blocs,” The Jerusalem Post on Monday quoted Sharon as saying, referring to large settlements in the West Bank such as Maaleh Adumim, outside Jerusalem, and Ariel, not far from Tel Aviv. “The Ariel bloc will remain a part of Israel forever, connected territorially to Israel,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
The Maaleh Adumim bloc will “continue to grow and be connected to Jerusalem,” Sharon said.
The Palestinians have repeatedly expressed anger over an Israeli plan to build 3,650 housing new units in Maaleh Adumim, saying it would bisect the West Bank and pre-empt any final peace deal. The Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state. A senior government official confirmed the quotes and said he was present when Sharon made them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on policy matters. Sharon, the architect of the current round of withdrawals, said any further withdrawals from the West Bank would be coordinated with the Palestinians, unlike the current pullout, the official said.
“This is something you will be able to see in a short time, that there will be no second disengagement,” Sharon said, according to The Jerusalem Post. Israel is required under the internationally backed “road map” peace plan to cease construction in the settlements. Sharon’s refusal to halt settlement construction has caused friction with the United States. ap