JERUSALEM: Israel’s far-right government on Monday approved the construction of thousands of homes in the illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, Reuters reported.
The decision came amid pressure from the United States to stop the construction of around 5,700 additional housing units which Washington sees as an obstacle to peace with Palestinians.
Israel’s Supreme Planning Council approved the plans for the illegal settlements in various areas of the West Bank which was praised by the Jewish settler leadership. The units are at various stages of approval as final assent was given to 818 units.
“I thank the Israeli government for the continued development of Israeli settlement,” the head of the West Bank Gush Etzion Regional Council and chairman of the Yesha Council Shlomo Ne’man said. “Especially in these difficult days, this is the most appropriate Zionist answer to all those who seek to destroy us.”
Most countries deem the settlements, built on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as illegal. Their presence is one of the fundamental issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as their capital. Israeli settlers cite Jewish historic connections to the land. Peace talks that had been brokered by the United States have been frozen since 2014.
Since entering office in January, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has approved the promotion of more than 7,000 new housing units, most deep in the West Bank.
“The Israeli government is pushing us at an unprecedented pace towards the full annexation of the West Bank,” the settlement watchdog Peace Now said in a statement.
A surge of violence in the past weeks in the West Bank included rampages by scores of Israeli settlers on Palestinian towns and villages that drew international condemnation and concern from the White House.
— Additional input from Reuters.