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Israel approves over 1,700 new settler homes

February 28, 2020

Israel has announced the construction of hundreds of new settlements in the occupied territory. The approval marks the latest in a recent string of promises to expand illegal settlements in the run-up to elections.

Construction of settlements in east Jerusalem
Image: picture-alliance/N. Alon

Israel on Thursday approved nearly 1,800 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said that a planning committee had "approved the construction of 1,800 housing units, according to the proposal of the Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett."

"We don't wait, we act," said Bennett, a nationalist lawmaker of the New Right. "We will not give an inch of the land of Israel to the Arabs, but for that, we must build there."

Thursday's announcement marked the second major settlement declaration in a single week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that 3,500 new illegal settler homes would be constructed in the strategically sensitive E1 region in occupied West Bank, passing from Jerusalem to Jericho.

The Israeli government, whose right-wing prime minister also faces a corruption trial, has been making a string of promises to expand illegal Jewish settlements as the country heads to the polls on March 2. 

Read more: Opinion: Trump's Middle East 'peace plan' delivers neither

Outrage and support

Thursday's announcement was lauded by the Yesha council, according to Agence France-Presse. The council represents Jewish settlers throughout the West Bank.

"This decision strengthens the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria and we are delighted," the council's head David Elhayani said in a statement, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name. 

Critics and members of the international community have denounced the construction of new settlements in the E1 region on the basis that it would split the West Bank in two, further undermining the prospect of a future Palestinian state.

More to come

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said his organization supports two states living in peace and security within recognized borders on pre-1967 lines. Israel seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967.

The Jerusalem-based anti-settlement non-profit Peace Now confirmed that a total of 1,739 homes were in the plans and that 92% of them were deep inside the West Bank. The organization added that 1,036 were approved through a first major stage, while 703 met a final major obstacle.

In a separate case, a new industrial park was approved for construction near the Palestinian city of Qalqilya in the West Bank, Peace Now said.

Competing for the vote

Bennett's nationalist Yemina coalition and Netanyahu's right-wing Likud are competing for the votes of Israel's more than 600,000 settlers.

"In the battle over the settler right-wing vote, Bennett and Netanyahu are dragging Israel to invest in thousands of harmful and unnecessary settlement units," Peace Now said.

The Middle East peace plan, unveiled by US President Donald Trump on 28 January, demanded Palestinians to accept West Bank settlements, causing widespread outrage across the region as well as the European Union.

Trump’s Mideast peace plan: Peace or politics?

mvb/ls (AFP, AP)

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