Israel set to approve thousands of settlements in West Bank

Israel set to approve thousands of settlements in West Bank
Israel vows to continue with settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank despite their illegality and pressure from ally Washington.
2 min read
The settlements are deemed illegal by most of the international community [Getty/archive]

Israel's hard-line government on Sunday tabled plans to approve thousands of building permits in the occupied West Bank, despite US pressure to halt settlement expansion that Washington sees as an obstacle to peace with Palestinians.

The plans for approval of 4,560 settlement units in various areas of the occupied West Bank were included on the agenda of Israel's Supreme Planning Council that meets next week, although only 1,332 were up for final approval, with the remainder still going through the preliminary clearance process.

"We will continue to develop the settlement of and strengthen the Israeli hold on the territory," said Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also holds a defence portfolio that gives him a leading role in West Bank administration.

The international community deems Israeli settlements, built on Palestinian land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as illegal.

Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip with occupied East Jerusalem as their capital. 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 far-right cabinet has approved the promotion of more than 7,000 new housing units, most deep in the West Bank.

It also amended a law to clear the way for settlers to return to four settlements that had previously been evacuated.

In response to Sunday's Israeli decision, the Palestinian Authority - which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the occupied West Bank - said it would boycott a meeting of the Joint Economic Committee with Israel scheduled for Monday.

The Palestinian Hamas group, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, after Israel's withdrawal of soldiers and settlers, condemned the move, saying it "will not give (Israel) legitimacy over our land. Our people will resist it by all means".