Israel may halt new Palestinian city over `green concerns`

Israel`s envt minister,said he was seeking to halt construction of a new Palestinian city over `green` concerns.

Updated: Oct 06, 2010, 21:16 PM IST

Jerusalem: Israel`s hawkish environment
minister, who backs ongoing Jewish settlement in the West
Bank, today said he was seeking to halt construction of a new
Palestinian city over `green` concerns.

Gilad Erdan, who holds the portfolio for
environmental protection, told Israel`s army radio it was "a
mistake" for Israel to allow the Palestinians to break ground
on the massive new project to build a city called Rawabi on
land just north of Ramallah.

Asked if he was trying to halt construction of the
project, which will cost some USD 700 million , until it
complies with certain environmental criteria, Erdan replied:
"Exactly."

"I don`t like the establishment of that city. I
think it was a mistake to allow it," he said, claiming that
the Palestinians had no proper plans for managing sewage or
other waste generated from the city, which will house some
40,000 people.

"At a political level, I don`t like the idea (that
they are building) in territories over which there is a
dispute about ownership and sovereignty," said the minister
who belongs to the rightwing Likud party of Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu.

"On one hand, they are building thousands of
housing units, while on the other side, every stone that is
moved creates a scandal," he said referring to the furore
which erupted last week when Jewish settlers began building
after the expiry of 10-month freeze on West Bank construction.
The end of the moratorium is currently threatening
to torpedo peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians
which started on September 2.

"But let`s put that to one side," Erdan said,
insisting he did not want to mix environmental issues with
politics.

"I have turned to the defence minister (Ehud Barak)
and the civil administration and said: `OK, this train has
already got under way, and this city will be built but let`s
demand at the very least that it doesn`t damage the
environment`," he said. The civil administration is the
Israeli military body which runs civilian affairs in the
occupied West Bank.

PTI