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FOCUS

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

Latest update : 2009-12-04

Stumbling blocks to peace

Last week the Palestinian Authority rejected the ten-month moratorium in settlement building in the West Bank put in place by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. FRANCE 24 visits Gilo settlement, on the edge of Jerusalem.

Today's Focus guests are Annette Young, FRANCE 24 correspondent in Jerusalem, and Israel Medad, a spokesman for the Yesha Council, an organisation representing Israeli settlers.
 

Perched on a hill just south of Jerusalem, Gilo overlooks the Holy City.

But on the other side of this Jewish settlement, the view is one of Israel's controversial security barrier separating Jerusalem from the West Bank.

For Gilo residents such as Shalom, the separation barrier's presence only confirms that Gilo is an integral part of Jerusalem and Israel. There's no reason, he says, to have a debate about whether to build now or in the future.

"The city is growing to the south, the north and to the east. It's normal when a city grows that is expands in all directions," he says.

Gilo is located in Arab East Jerusalem, captured by Israel during the 1967 war.

Now an established community with tree-lined streets and shops, its 30,000 residents don't see themselves as settlers. For them, they are living in a Jerusalem neighbourhood and cannot understand the recent controversy to build an additional 900 new homes.

Jerusalem City Council member Moshe Bensoussan took FRANCE 24 to the site where he says construction will soon begin.

The sweeping views of the city for this local council member only proves to him that Gilo is part of Jerusalem. And for him, Jerusalem is part of Israel, end of story.

"You know we really don't have a choice, there's not enough space here," he told FRANCE 24. "Look over there, you can see the Knesset, the parliament. Well, this is Jerusalem. Jerusalem, this is the red line for both the government and even for the opposition."

Haim Erlich from the Israeli organisation, Ir Amim, which promotes Palestinian-Israeli co-existence in Jerusalem, strongly disagrees. For him, the building will happen on the other side of Gilo, not overlooking Jerusalem but the West Bank instead.

The move to expand Gilo is part of a wider plan to ensure Israeli expansion south and east of Jerusalem, he says. It's a highly political decision, says the activist, and means the end of the Palestinian dream to have Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. 

"The Israeli authorities are trying to make a reality that south of East Jerusalem is Israeli so it's not up for future discussion," he tells FRANCE 24.

In southern Gilo and surrounded by new construction lives Palestinian resident Um Ramy with her family.

Um Ramy rents an old Arab house. She doesn't dream of a Palestinian state; instead her only dream is being able to stay put.

"Originally, this was Arab land, connected to the town of Bet Jala .. and of course today, the Jews took it all." she tells FRANCE 24. "This is Arab land. We don't want to leave. Even if the land is sold, I want to stay, not leave. This is an Arab house isn't it?"

So while the Palestinians condemn the absence of a settlement freeze in Jerusalem, the Israelis continue to build ...

By Marc de Chalvron and Annette Young

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