Israel announces plans to build 1,300 new houses in West Bank settlements

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Israel on Sunday announced plans to build more residences for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, prompting immediate condemnation from Palestinians, peace activists and neighboring Jordan.

The announcement from the Ministry of Housing and Construction of the government of right-wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett indicated that tenders had been issued for 1,355 housing units in the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the Six Day War of 1967.

The new homes are in addition to the more than 2,000 residences that defense sources said would be authorized in August for settlers in the West Bank.

Housing Minister Zeev Elkin, a member of the right-wing New Hope party, said in a statement that “strengthening the Jewish presence (in the West Bank) was essential to the Zionist vision.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting, called on the nations of the world, and in particular the United States, to “confront” Israel with “aggression” as settlement building represents for the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian Authority will closely monitor a response from the administration of US President Joe Biden, which has said it opposes unilateral Israeli settlement building as an obstacle to a two-state solution to the conflict.

About 475,000 Israeli Jews live in West Bank settlements, considered illegal by international law, on land that Palestinians claim as part of their future state.

‘To wake up’

Jordan, an Israeli security partner with whom Bennett has sought to improve relations since taking office in June, condemned the announcement as “a violation of international law.”

Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Haitham Abu Al-Ful called the construction of settlements and the general “confiscation” of Palestinian land “illegitimate”.

Anti-occupation group Peace Now said Sunday’s announcement proved Bennett’s ideologically diverse coalition, which toppled the pro-settlement government of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in June, was not “a government of change “.

“This government is clearly pursuing Netanyahu’s policy of de facto annexation,” Peace Now said, calling on left-wing partners in Bennett’s government, Labor and Meretz parties, to “wake up and demand an immediate end to construction wild in the colonies “.

Moshe Hellinger, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University, told AFP that right-wing factions in Bennett’s eight-party coalition “must show their constituents that they are standing up for their interests despite being in a coalition with the left “.

Preserving the coalition, which also includes an Islamist party, will force all parties to “swallow snakes,” he said.

Bennett, the former leader of a settler pressure group, opposes the creation of a Palestinian state.

He has ruled out formal peace talks with the Palestinian Authority during his tenure, saying he prefers to focus on economic improvements.

Shortly after the announcement of colonization, the Defense Ministry said it was issuing 9,000 additional permits to Palestinians in the West Bank to work in the Israeli construction industry. In addition to these, the goal is to add another 6,000 permits “shortly”, he said.

About 120,000 Palestinians currently have permits to work either inside Israel or in the settlements, typically earning far higher wages than equivalent work would pay in the West Bank.

The new settlement houses are to be built in seven settlements, according to the statement from the Ministry of Housing and Construction.

The expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem has continued under all Israeli governments since 1967.

However, construction has accelerated in recent years under Netanyahu, with a significant boom under the US administration of former President Donald Trump, whom Palestinians accused of blatant pro-Israel bias.

(AFP)

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