JERUSALEM ( Associated Press) – Israel is ready to move forward with plans to build 4,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank, the interior minister said on Friday.
If approved, it would be the biggest advancement in settlement plans since the Biden administration took over. The White House opposes the agreement development because it further erodes the possibility of a final two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Interior Minister Aylette Shek, a staunch supporter of the settlements, tweeted that a planning committee would convene next week to approve 4,000 homes, calling construction a “basic, necessary and obvious thing” in the West Bank.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that the civil administration, a military body, will meet on Thursday to push forward 1,452 units, and another 2,536 units will be approved by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
The Defense Ministry referred the questions to COGAT, the military body in charge of civil affairs in the occupied West Bank. COGAT did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and built over 130 settlements across the region that are home to some 500,000 settlers. About three million Palestinians live in the West Bank under Israeli military rule.
Palestinians want the West Bank to be a core part of their future state. They see the expansion of settlements as a major obstacle to any future peace settlement because they reduce and divide the land on which such a state would be established. Most of the international community considers the settlements illegal.
The current government of Israel is divided between parties that oppose and support the settlements. As a compromise, it has rejected any major peace initiative or any move to formally annex parts of the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, former leader of the Main Settlers Council, is opposed to the Palestinian state.
Israel approved the construction of 3,000 settlers’ homes in October, despite US rebuke. However, some particularly controversial projects have been put on hold by officials in the face of strong US protests.
Settlement construction could only be approved after a lengthy bureaucratic process, and it was unclear how quickly construction crews would be able to break ground on the 4,000 homes if they got the green light. The process also provides the Israeli authorities with an opportunity to halt or delay such projects.