Is­rael ap­proves plans for thou­sands of new set­tle­ment units in West Bank

Iran Daily - - International -

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu ap­proved build­ing plans for 3,736 new units in set­tle­ments in the oc­cu­pied West Bank on Tues­day, in what ac­tivists say is part of a new wave of con­struc­tion spurred by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s more ac­com­mo­dat­ing stance.

The units will be built in nu­mer­ous set­tle­ments, in­clud­ing in Al-khalil and other con­tentious ar­eas, said an Is­raeli of­fi­cial who dis­cussed the an­nounce­ment on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he was not au­tho­rized to speak pub­licly, wash­ing­ton­post. com re­ported.

Some of the units, which in­clude homes, com­mu­nal build­ings and in­sti­tu­tions, are slated for iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties that sit deep in­side the ter­ri­tory Pales­tini­ans want for a fu­ture state.

Most na­tions con­sider the set­tle­ments il­le­gal. Is­rael dis­putes that.

“This year is look­ing to maybe even be a record year,” said Hagit Ofran, di­rec­tor of Set­tle­ment Watch for the left-wing Peace Now or­ga­ni­za­tion, re­fer­ring to the num­ber of new units ap­proved. “It’s with­out doubt due to the fact that there have been changes in the White House.”

Pres­i­dent Trump has said that set­tle­ments are “not a good thing for peace,” but an­nounce­ments of plans to build thou­sands of new units since his inau­gu­ra­tion have been met with lim­ited re­buke.

The set­tle­ments ex­panded dur­ing the pres­i­dency of Barack Obama, but his ad­min­is­tra­tion was more vo­cal in its op­po­si­tion, call­ing them “il­le­git­i­mate” and a ma­jor bar­rier to achiev­ing peace and a two-state solution.

In De­cem­ber, Obama broke with US cus­tom by de­clin­ing to veto a UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion la­bel­ing Is­raeli set­tle­ments as il­le­gal.

Pales­tini­ans say that by build­ing set­tle­ments, Is­rael seeks to block a con­tigu­ous Pales­tinian state in the West Bank.

“Is­rael is bent on en­trench­ing the mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion and its il­le­gal set­tle­ment en­ter­prise, fur­ther reaf­firm­ing its in­ten­tions of dis­plac­ing Pales­tine and re­plac­ing it with ‘Greater Is­rael,’ ” said Hanan Ashrawi, a mem­ber of the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of the Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

She called on the “global com­mu­nity to hold Is­rael ac­count­able for act­ing out­side the law be­fore it de­stroys the prospects of a vi­able Pales­tinian state, peace and sta­bil­ity in­def­i­nitely.” Ne­tanyahu has re­peat­edly vowed this year that he will not re­move a sin­gle set­tle­ment from the West Bank.

“There will be no more up­root­ing of set­tle­ments in the land of Is­rael,” he said in a speech in Au­gust at the set­tle­ment of Barkan. “We are here to stay.”

About 400,000 Is­raelis live in roughly 150 set­tle­ments in the West Bank, and an ad­di­tional 200,000 Is­raelis live in Beit-ul-mo­qad­das, which Pales­tini­ans want to be­come the cap­i­tal of a fu­ture state.

Is­rael ap­proves such projects ev­ery few months but un­til re­cently fo­cused on ap­prov­ing build­ings in the ma­jor set­tle­ment blocs, which it hopes to keep as part of any even­tual peace set­tle­ment. Tues­day’s plans in­clude units in ar­eas out­side the blocs.

“Things we never saw be­fore are now hap­pen­ing,” Ofran said.

With Ne­tanyahu’s ap­proval, the next stage is for the Is­raeli mil­i­tary au­thor­ity that gov­erns the West Bank, to give tech­ni­cal ap­proval to the build­ing plans. In some cases, land will be zoned for new homes, and in oth­ers, ex­ist­ing struc­tures built with­out the nec­es­sary per­mits will be le­gal­ized.

In ad­di­tion to the lat­est ap­proval, plans for about 5,000 hous­ing units have been ad­vanced this year by a regime com­mit­tee, and an ad­di­tional 3,000 ten­ders have been is­sued.

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