An Israeli settlement push in the occupied West Bank, involving the building of 1,000 new homes in two new settlements, is “killing the two state solution”, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has said.
Hamdallah was speaking to the Reuters news agency on Thursday in response to news of the proposed housing projects.
Earlier in the day, an Israeli settlers’ council asked Israeli zoning authorities in the occupied territory to approve the building of 550 housing units in Bruchin, an unauthorized outpost granted legal status by Israel last year.
The extent of Bruchin’s expansion, where some 350 settlers live, had not been disclosed previously.
The officials said zoning authorities also received a plan from the council for the construction of 537 dwellings in the settlement of Itamar, along with the retroactive approval of 130 homes built there without permits.
The Itamar building proposal was announced in 2012 and approved by then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak, after an Israeli couple and three of their children were killed in the settlement by two Palestinians in 2011.
Continued Israeli settlement expansion on occupied land that the Palestinians say must be part of any future Palestinian state has been the main stumbling in negotiations between the two sides.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has been making a push in recent months towards restarting negotiations, but settlement expansion has also blocked those attempts so far.
“The international community must take action before this solution dies,” PM Hamdallah said in response to the latest settlement move.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has said that talks with the Israelis can only resume after a total freeze on settlement construction, which Palestinians see as expanding Israeli claims to land ahead of the possible drawing up of borders.
Israel and the United States have urged Abbas to return to the negotiations without preconditions.
Opponents of the two construction plans now have two months in which to lodge objections against them. Further authorization by the current defence minister, Moshe Yaalon, is required before building permits can be issued.
Hagit Ofran, from the anti-settlement watchdog group Peace Now, estimated that construction could begin in about a year, if approved.
Some 500,000 Israelis have settled in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas Israel captured along with the Gaza Strip in the 1967 conflict. About 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
(Agencies via Aljazeera.com)