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Huckabee attends new Israeli settlement ceremony

Florida resident and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee attended a ceremony Monday marking the further expansion of Israeli housing in East Jerusalem, using the opportunity to expound on his views regarding what much of the international community considers to be illegal settlements on occupied territories and disregarding the notion that building on lands where Palestinians hope to establish a future state are damaging to the peace process: #

“It is inconceivable in many ways that we would have to even argue and debate whether or not Israelis could live in Israel, not just in parts of Israel but anywhere in Israel they wished to live,” Huckabee added. “I cannot imagine as an American being told that I could not live in certain places in America because I was Christian, or because I was white, or because I spoke English. I would be outraged if someone told me that in my country, I would be prohibited and forbidden to live in a part of that country, for any reason.” #

Israel Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz also spoke at the ceremony and asserted that construction in Jerusalem is “not an impediment to peace, it brings it closer,” adding that the more Israel builds “the more peace there will be.” #

As reported by Haaretz: #

“That is why this neighborhood is only the cornerstone. It will serve as a model for the resurgence of Jerusalem’s construction swing,” Hershkowitz said. #

Also addressing the crowd, Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor David Harari said that the “housing units to be built here are only the beginning of the road,” adding that talks were underway “to turn it into a substantial neighborhood.” #

Earlier this month, Haaretz learned that the Jerusalem planning commission was expected to approve a new large-scale construction project beyond the Green Line. #

The plan, called Gilo: Southern Slopes, includes the construction of 1,400 housing units on an area between the neighborhood of Gilo toward the Cremisan Monastery, and the settlement of Har Gilo. It is expected to draw widespread international criticism. #

Huckabee, a Fox News personality and likely 2012 GOP presidential candidate, who in 2007 claimed “there’s no such thing as a Palestinian,” was joined by actor and tea party favorite Jon Voight in a three-day visit hosted by the Jerusalem Reclamation Project, a group whose focus is to promote Jewish settlements. Both Huckabee and Voight will be meeting with Israeli officials, including Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as touring existing housing units. #

In a meeting with reporters, the former evangelical minister dismissed the notion that Israel should relinquish land for peace, calling it an “unrealistic, unworkable and unreachable goal.” #

The *Atlanta Journal-Constitution *reports: #

Most of the international community — including President Barack Obama — considers Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem illegal because they are built on occupied land Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians claim both areas for a future state. #

Huckabee suggested that [if] a Palestinian state were to be established, it shouldn’t come at Israel’s expense. #

“There are vast amounts of territory that are in the hands of Muslims, in the hands of Arabs. Maybe the international community can come together and accommodate,” he said. #

Huckabee also claimed that any peace agreement has to recognize that “the Jewish people have indigenous rights to the land in which they occupy and live and it goes back not 60 years or 80 years but it goes back 3,500 years.” #

The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, states that international law clearly defines the Jewish settlements in the West Bank as illegal: #

The establishment of settlements in the West Bank violates international humanitarian law which establishes principles that apply during war and occupation. Moreover, the settlements lead to the infringement of international human rights law. #

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Article 49). The Hague Regulations prohibit an occupying power from undertaking permanent changes in the occupied area unless these are due to military needs in the narrow sense of the term, or unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population. #

The establishment of settlements results in the violation of the rights of Palestinians as enshrined in international human rights law. Among other violations, the settlements infringe the right to self-determination, equality, property, an adequate standard of living, and freedom of movement. #

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