Israel approves over 7,000 settlement homes, groups say

Israel approves over 7,000 settlement homes, groups say
Israel is "spitting in the face of the US" said Peace Now, after making commitments to halt unilateral settlement expansion for six months.
3 min read
24 February, 2023
The government's planning committee met to discuss the infamous E1 settlement expansion [Getty images]

Israel’s far-right government has granted approval for over 7,000 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, settlement backers and opponents said  on Thursday. The move defies growing international opposition to construction in the occupied territory that breaks international law.

The announcement came just days after the U.N. Security Council passed a watered-down statement criticizing Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, blocked what would have been a tougher legally binding resolution, with diplomats saying they had received Israeli assurances of refraining from unilateral acts for six months.

The new approvals took place during a two-day meeting that ended Thursday and appeared to contradict those claims. The U.S. has repeatedly criticized Israeli settlement construction, saying it undermines hopes for a two-state solution with the Palestinians, but taken no action to stop it.

Peace Now, an anti-settlement watchdog group that attended the meeting, said a planning committee granted approvals for some 7,100 new housing units across the West Bank.

The group said the committee scheduled a meeting next month to discuss plans to develop a strategic area east of Jerusalem known as E1. The U.S. in the past has blocked the project, which would largely bisect the West Bank and which critics say would make it impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Lior Amichai, the group's director, said some 5,200 housing units were in the early stages of planning, while the remainder were approved for near-term construction. He also said construction was approved in four unauthorized outposts.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had pledged not to legalize any more wildcat outposts. He made the promise after retroactively legalizing 10 existing outposts earlier this month.

The Israeli government is “spitting on the face of the U.S., only a few days after announcing that they committed to them that there would be no advancement of settlements in the near future,” said Peace Now.

There was no immediate U.S. reaction.

The planned construction is likely to add to the already heightened tensions following an Israeli military raid that killed 10 Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday, including a 16 year-old .

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Since the start of this year, Israeli forced have killed 61 Palestinians.

Nine Israeli civilians, including three children, one Ukrainian civilian and a police officer have been killed over the same period, according to an AFP tally.

Last year was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the United Nations started tracking casualties in 2005.

The international community, along with the Palestinians, considers settlement construction illegal or illegitimate and an obstacle to peace. Over 700,000 Israelis now live in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem — territories captured by Israel in 1967 and sought by the Palestinians for a future independent state.