Israel Seeks to Further Expand Settlements

A Palestinian stands on his property overlooking the Israeli settlement of Har Homa, West Bank, February 18, 2011. Photo: UPI/Debbie Hill

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday he will present for approval a plan to build 1,285 housing units this year in West Bank settlements.

Israel’s settlement project in the territories it has occupied or annexed since 1967 is illegal under international law and seen by the international community as a major obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.

“The defence minister will on Wednesday present for approval by the Higher Planning Council an immediate construction plan for 2018 of 1,285 housing units in Judea and Samaria,” his ministry said, using the biblical names Israeli authorities use for the West Bank.

Mr. Lieberman would also seek to move forward projects for 2,500 additional housing units in more than 20 locations, it said.

The Higher Planning Council meets several times a year to examine and approve settlement construction projects.

According to Peace Now, an Israeli NGO that campaigns against the settlements, 6,742 housing projects were approved in the settlements last year, the highest figure since 2013.

In 2016, 2,629 housing units were approved.

In December, the central committee of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s Likud party unanimously adopted a resolution urging its own elected officials “to allow free construction and the application of (Israeli) legislation to all liberated Jewish settlement areas” in the territory.

If such a text were adopted by the government, it would definitively end the “two-state solution” by making a Palestinian state impossible.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas criticised the Likud resolution and the United States’ refusal to condemn Israeli “crimes against the Palestinian people”.

Mr. Abbas said the vote would not have taken place without “total support” from Washington.

About 400,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements in the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel for 50 years.

A further 200,000 live in east Jerusalem, annexed by Israel in a move never recognised by the international community.