Israeli planners to approve 3,000 new homes in West Bank settlements

The plan to expand settlements is criticised by left-wing coalition parties

Construction this October at the Israeli settlement of Rahalim,  south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. Photograph:  Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images

Construction this October at the Israeli settlement of Rahalim, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. Photograph: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images

 

Israel’s West Bank planning committee will convene next week to approve construction of 3,000 new homes in West Bank settlements and prepare planning for an additional 1,344 units.

The construction will be inside existing settlements, across the entire West Bank, and includes building in isolated settlements that are outside of the main settlement blocs.

At the same time permission will be granted for about 1,300 Palestinian homes to be built in the West Bank’s Area C, the 60 per cent of the West Bank that remains under full Israeli military and civilian control.

The question of settlement construction was one of the most contentious questions facing the new government headed by Naftali Bennett of the right-wing, pro-settlement Yamina party. The wide coalition that replaced the government led by Binyamin Netanyahu also contains an Arab party and two left-wing parties that all oppose expanding settlements.

The compromise was that there would be no annexation of any of the West Bank, but “natural growth” would be permitted for existing Jewish communities.

The government has been under constant pressure from the settlers to approve new homes, but Mr Bennett wanted to delay any decision until after he met with US president Joe Biden at the White House in August.

Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria settlers’ council in the northern West Bank, reacted angrily to reports that the Biden administration was pressuring the Israeli government to introduce a freeze on settlement building.

“Construction in Judea and Samaria is only in the hands of the Israeli government and not in the hands of any foreign government. Freezing construction will end the government’s tenure,” he warned, referring to the West Bank by its biblical names.

This marks the first time that new settlement homes will be endorsed since the Bennett government was sworn in in June, and also the first time during the Biden presidency which, in contrast to the Trump administration, opposes settlement expansion.

Illegal

Most of the international community says the settlements are illegal. The Palestinians seek the entire West Bank, including east Jerusalem, as their future independent state.

The plan to expand settlements was criticised by the left-wing coalition parties. Mossi Raz of the Meretz party said the decision would harm Israeli interests. “The decision was not taken by the entire government,” Mr Raz said “It will compromise future chances for a secure future for all residents of this land.”

Separately on Friday, Israel declared several leading Palestinian NGOs to be affiliated with the militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) group.

Israel’s decision to declare the NGOs terrorist organisations was condemned by Human Rights Watch, which said Israel could now close the NGOs’ offices, seize their assets and arrest and jail their staff.