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Israel to vote on legalizing wildcat West Bank settlements

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a parliamentary vote to legalize unauthorized Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The move comes as Netanyahu gets a diplomatic boost by Trump's pro-Israel statements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would seek a parliamentary approval to legalize unauthorized Jewish settlements built on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

Last year, lawmakers passed a draft legislation proposing a legal status for wildcat settlements across the West Bank. The international community has called on the Israeli government to halt any construction on the lands.

A statement from the prime minister's office said the bill would be submitted to the country's parliament on Monday "to allow us to regularize once and for all settlements in (the West Bank) and prevent repeated attempts to damage them."

Settlement construction in the West Bank has skyrocketed since Netanyahu took office in 2009, with 15,000 additional Israeli Jewish settlers moving into homes on the West Bank in 2016 alone.

The international community considers the settlements illegal even if they are approved by Israeli legislators. The United Nations also consider them a major impediment in peace efforts between Israel and Palestine.

Symbolbild Israel genehmigt 464 Siedlung Häuser in West Bank (Getty Images/AFP/T. Coex)

Some 15,000 additional Israeli Jewish settlers moved into homes on the West Bank in 2016

The Trump boost

Analysts have said Netanyahu wants to take advantage of the new US President Donald Trump's less critical stance on the settlements.

"Israel continues to be a huge ally of the United States," said Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman. "[Trump] wants to grow closer with Israel to make sure that it gets the full respect that it deserves in the Middle East, and that's what he's going to do."

In December last year, UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements. The US abstained from the vote, allowing the measure to pass by a vote of 14 in favor in the 15-member Council. Israel lashed out at the former US President Barack Obama for the move.

Trump, who was president-elect at the time, said that upon his inauguration, "things will be different" in US-UN relations, thus hinting that his administration would not pursue the path taken by Obama on the settlement dispute.

Infografik Siedlungen im Westjordanland ENGLISCH

shs/sms  (AFP, dpa)

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