Tel Aviv stands accused of deception by claiming settlement construction in the occupied territories is only continuing to cater for growing families already living there.
Palestinian presidential aide Yasser Abed Rabbo of the Palestine Liberation Organisation slammed Israeli politicians for ‘playing a game of deception by what they call natural growth.’
Mr Rabbo pointed to data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics which shows that, in 2007, 36 per cent of all new settlers had moved from Israel or abroad.
Israeli watchdog group Peace Now activist Hagit Ofran said that, while more recent data is not yet available, ‘there are few reasons to think Israel has reversed the trend.’
Israel’s hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put himself on a collision course with Washington, which has come out strongly against continued settlement expansion, by saying his administration will allow further construction to allow for ‘natural growth.’
The United States is among those monitoring settlement activity and the US Consulate in Jerusalem said that its officials regularly visit settlements and take photographs.
A foreman at one construction project in Maaleh Adumim said on Monday that US officials had been there recently, walking around and taking pictures.
Jerusalem-born Yaffa Shkibai, who has lived in the Maaleh Adumim settlement for 26 of her 50 years, called on Jewish settlers to ‘continue building and not be afraid of the US,’ adding: ‘If we bend, they’ll kick us out of here.’