Israel okays thousands of settler homes in occupied West Bank before Kushner visit

Israel okays thousands of settler homes in occupied West Bank before Kushner visit
Israel rarely grants approvals for Palestinian construction in Area C of the occupied West Bank.

3 min read
31 July, 2019
Israeli security forces keep watch as a Palestinian house is demolished in Area C [AFP/Getty]

Israeli ministers have given rare approval to 700 Palestinian homes in the part of the occupied West Bank under the country's full control while also approving 6,000 homes for settlers, an Israeli official said Wednesday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the approval by Israel's security cabinet on Tuesday ahead of an expected visit by US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. 

It was not immediately clear if all of the homes will be new construction or if some already exist and are receiving retroactive approval.

The approvals are for the part of the West Bank known as Area C, which is under Israeli security and civilian control and where its settlements are located.

Area C accounts for more than 60 percent of the West Bank, the Palestinian territory that would form part of a future Palestinian state under the so-called two-state solution.

Israel rarely grants approvals for Palestinian construction in that area.

The plan for Palestinians, though relatively small and far outweighed by the new settlement homes, could allow Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to argue he is making efforts in favour of Kushner's long-awaited peace plan.

Details on Kushner's visit, expected this week, were not yet made available. 

He has said his plan will not mention a two-state solution because "it means one thing to the Israelis, it means one thing to the Palestinians".

US ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has been a backer of Israeli settlements, reiterated that stance in an interview with CNN late Tuesday.

Friedman said the United States was in favour of Palestinian "autonomy," but he signalled Washington was not ready for now to support full statehood - similar to Netanyahu's position.

"The issue we have is agreeing in advance to a state because the word state conjures up with it so many potential issues that we think it does a disservice for us to use that phrase," he said.

Comment: Israel just bulldozed two basic principles for peace

Last week, Israel demolished 12 Palestinian buildings it considered illegally constructed.

The Palestinians immediately slammed the demolitions in the Sur Baher area which straddles the West Bank and Jerusalem, but Israel has defended the move as essential to its security.

Israel has demolished some 63 Palestinian housing units in the first half of this year in East Jerusalem, compared to 37 during the same period last year.

Residents fear another 100 buildings in the area in a similar situation could be at risk in the near future.

It is extremely difficult for Palestinians to receive construction permits from Israeli authorities in areas under their control, and Palestinians and rights activists say a housing shortage has resulted.

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