Israel has given the green light for new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, ending an eight-month lull in settlement expansion. The decision has dealt another blow to hopes of a wider Israeli-Arab peace deal.
Israel approved hundreds of new settler homes in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, Israel's West Bank Civil Administration planning committee said in a statement.
The statement said that 1,313 housing units had been approved for several settlements. Plans for an additional 853 housing units had progressed, but they have not been given final approval.
In January, US President Donald Trump unveiled his controversial Middle East peace plan, which gave Washington's blessing to Israel's plans to annex swathes of the West Bank, including the settlements — communities considered illegal under international law.
Wednesday's approval not only further eroded hopes for a wider Israeli-Arab peace deal, but also triggered a wave of anger from Palestinians, who want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
"We urge the international community to intervene immediately to stop this settlement madness, which destroys any chance for a genuine peace process," said Nabil Abu Rdeneh a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinians have also condemned the Gulf-Israel accords and dropped out of the rotating presidency of the Arab League in protest.
West Bank: Living with Uncertainty
Netanyahu moving at 'full steam'
Israel's latest settlement plans were on the agenda Wednesday and Thursday at a session of the top planning committee of Israel's Civil Administration which oversees civil affairs in the occupied West Bank, AFP reported.
Most countries, except for the US and Israel, view Israel's settlements on territory seized in the 1967 Middle East War as illegal.
Israel claims historical and biblical ties to the West Bank where around 450,000 Israeli settlers live alongside around 2.7 million Palestinians.
The return to construction of settlements in the West Bank following an eight-month lull might bring back support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from settler leaders.
"Netanyahu is moving ahead at full steam toward solidifying the de facto annexation of the West Bank," Peace Now, an Israeli nongovernmental organization, said in a statement.
The coronavirus pandemic and soaring unemployment rates has caused the prime minister's popularity to dwindle even further. Netanyahu is also embroiled in a corruption scandal and has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.