Israel on Sunday advanced plans for 780 new settlement units in the occupied West Bank, settlement watchdog Peace Now said, adding the move puts Israel “on a collision course” with the incoming US administration.
Right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had last week directed authorities to approve construction of the units in occupied Palestinian territories.
That came less than two weeks before President Donald Trump’s Administration was due to leave the office.
DFA: Minister for Foreign Affairs on settlement announcements in the West Bank: “ I am extremely disappointed at the announcement earlier this week by the Israeli authorities regarding a further 800 housing units within Israeli settlements in the West Bank. https://t.co/IjXLs3AS2q
— Mission of the State of Palestine in Ireland (@IrePalestine) January 17, 2021
All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are regarded as illegal by much of the international community.
But Trump’s administration, breaking with decades of US policy, declared in 2019 that Washington no longer considered settlements as being in breach of international law.
US President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn on Wednesday, has indicated that his administration will restore Washington’s pre-Trump policy of opposing settlement expansion.
Palestinian demonstrators use slingshots to hurl stones at Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israeli settlements, in the village of Mughayer, near the West Bank city of Ramallah
Credit: AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed pic.twitter.com/HbQKo3j1of
— Pixiedust (@PixiedustJtT) January 17, 2021
Peace Now, an Israeli civil society group that opposes the occupation, said that Israeli planning authorities had approved “plans to build 780 housing units in settlements, most of them deep in the West Bank.”
“Not only will this settlement activity erode the possibility for a conflict-ending resolution with the Palestinians in the long-term, but in the short-term, it needlessly sets Israel on a collision course with the incoming Biden administration,” the group said.
Beyond the change in Washington, experts say Netanyahu also has domestic political reasons for pushing settlement expansion.
Electioneering is intensifying ahead of Israel’s March 23 poll, in which Netanyahu is expected to face a fierce right-wing challenge from Gideon Sa’ar, a defector from the premier’s Likud party.
Israeli forces have injured a number of Palestinians, including a 72-year-old man, taking part in protests against Israeli settlements in the village of Kafr Qaddum in occupied West Bank. #FreePalestine @cjwerleman @HyderAbbasi @ghadaoueiss pic.twitter.com/0GGTKMsTAz
— Ankara Voice (@AnkaraVoice) January 16, 2021
Saar, a prominent pro-settler voice, split with Likud late last year to challenge Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving premier.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu is once again putting his personal political interests over those of the country,” Peace Now said.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Following years of settlement expansion, there currently some 450,000 Jews living in the West Bank amid an estimated 2.8 million Palestinians.
(The New Arab, PC, Social Media)