Israel approves 1,300 new settlement housing units in the occupied West Bank

Palestinians built new houses in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Bruchin near the Palestinian town of Nablus, as on October 25, 2021. Israel is expected to move forward with thousands of new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank this week.   | Photo Credit: AP

A senior Israeli minister said on Monday that he opposes the government's approval of more than 1,300 new settlement housing units in the occupied West Bank, highlighting stark disagreements between the country's ideologically divided coalition members.

The Israeli government on Sunday announced construction tenders for 1,355 housing units in the West Bank, the first such announcement of expansion of settlements in the territory during U.S. President Joe Biden's administration. The move appears to run contrary to the new government’s pledge to put ideological considerations aside and reduce tensions with the Palestinians.

The announcement was one of the final steps before the new settlement expansion can commence. It green lights bidding on contracts for hundreds of housing units in the settlements of Ariel, Beit El and other remote Jewish communities in the West Bank, a territory the Palestinians seek as part of a future state. Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Zeev Elkin said in a statement on Sunday that “after a long period of construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, I applaud the marketing of more than 1,000 units,” referring to the West Bank by its biblical names.

But, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, leader of the dovish Meretz party, said on Monday in an interview with Israeli public radio broadcaster Kan that his faction “will explicitly not agree to actions that will harm the chances of reaching a solution” with the Palestinians and called on his government to refrain from them.

“I understand that this government, in the existing situation, won't sign a peace treaty with the Palestinians right now, but still, we must avoid actions that worsen the situation,” he said. He remained confident, however, that the coalition would remain united and pass a national budget before a November 14 deadline despite its differences.

Sunday’s announcement came a few days before the expected authorization for some 3,000 new settler housing units in the West Bank later this week, which has already drawn calls for restraint from the U.S. That's in addition to another 1,600 units for Palestinians residing in areas of the territory under Israeli civil administration.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war — for their future state. The Palestinians view the settlements, home to some 700,000 Israelis, as a main obstacle to peace. Most of the international community considers Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal. Israel views the West Bank as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 6:18:03 PM |

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