JERUSALEM (AP). The settlement observer said Wednesday that the Israeli committee had approved about 3,000 new homes for settlers in the occupied West Bank, a day after the Biden administration issued its strongest condemnation of the proposed construction.
The word of approval came from Hagit Ofran, a group that opposed the Peace Now settlements. An Israeli security official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, also said the plan was approved, but details were not immediately released by the Defense Ministry.
It was the largest statement of its kind since the Trump administration, which put up with settlement growth and abandoned the long-standing US position that settlements were illegal. According to Peace Now, Israel embarked on aggressive settlement activities during the Trump years, pushing plans to build more than 12,000 settler homes in 2020 alone, the highest since data collection began in 2012.
The ministry’s High Planning Council, which authorizes construction in the West Bank, met Wednesday to approve new housing units, with about half of them getting final approval before construction begins.
Israel is expected to discuss the issue of allowing the construction of at least 1,300 Palestinian homes next week.
If confirmed, Wednesday’s decision will surely cause friction with the US and Europe and anger the Palestinians. It also seemed poised to test Israel’s fragile ruling coalition of ultranationalists, centrists and peace-loving parties that oppose the settlements after former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year rule.
“Now everyone knows that this is not a government of change, but this is a government with the same policy as Netanyahu – to build more settlements, deepen the occupation and deny us the chance for peace,” Ofran said.
Sabri Saidam, deputy secretary general of the Fatah Central Committee, turned his anger towards the Biden administration and other countries protesting against the plan, urging the international community to “go from words to deeds and express (their) views by deeds and beyond.” condemning “.
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Saidam added: “The Israeli government is implementing the so-called Trump plan, and the Biden administration is almost non-existent.”
On Tuesday, the US State Department said it was “deeply concerned” about Israel’s plans to build new homes for settlements, including many deep in the West Bank. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken protested the plan during a telephone conversation with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, according to a senior US official who was not authorized to speak in public.
At a press briefing the same day, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington, DC: “We strongly oppose settlement expansion, which is completely incompatible with efforts to reduce tensions and bring calm and undermine the prospects for a two-state solution. … “
The Palestinians are looking for the West Bank for their future state, as well as the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians view the settlements, which are home to some 700,000 Israelis, as a major obstacle to peace, and are considered illegal by most of the international community.
Israel views the West Bank, home to over 2.5 million Palestinians, as the biblical and historical center of the Jewish people.
The committee also had to approve housing units for Palestinians who live in areas of the West Bank that are under full Israeli control, outside of the enclaves administered by the Palestinian Authority Government.
Palestinians and human rights groups say the 1,300 houses in question are just a small part of the need. The Palestinians need a military permit to build 60% of the occupied West Bank, which is under full Israeli control. Rights groups say permits are almost never issued, forcing many residents to build without a permit and risk demolition. Palestinians and human rights groups say these homes are a small fraction of the demand.
On Sunday, Israel announced tenders for 1,355 housing units in the West Bank, the first of its kind since the inauguration of President Joe Biden, who has pledged to take a tougher stance on settlements. It also seemed to run counter to the vows of the new Israeli coalition government to reduce tensions with the Palestinians.
The move drew condemnation from Palestinians, peace-loving members of Israel’s diverse ruling coalition, Naftali Bennett, the EU and the United States.
Kellman reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. Associated Press contributors Joseph Krauss and Arij Hazbone contributed from Jerusalem. Matthew Lee contributed from Washington.