Israel moves ahead with thousands of settler homes despite US opposition


FILE PHOTO: A Palestinian flag hangs on a tree during a protest against Jewish settlements in An-Naqura village near Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 29, 2021. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta

JERUSALEM (Reuters): Israel moved forward on Wednesday (Oct 27) with plans to build some 3,000 homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, defying the Biden administration's strongest criticism to date of such projects.

A senior Palestinian official said the decision showed that Israel's new government, led by far-right politician Naftali Bennett, was "no less extreme" than the administration of the veteran leader he replaced, Benjamin Netanyahu.

An Israeli defence official said a planning forum of Israel's liaison office with the Palestinians gave preliminary approval for plans to build 1,344 housing units and its final go-ahead for projects to construct 1,800 homes.

It will be up to Defence Minister Benny Gantz, a centrist in Israel's politically diverse government, to give the nod for construction permits to be issued, with further friction with Washington looming.

"This government is trying to balance between its good relations with the Biden administration and the various political constraints," a senior Israeli official told Reuters.

The United States said on Tuesday (Oct 26) it was "deeply concerned" about Israel's plans to advance thousands of settlement units. It called such steps damaging to prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said it strongly opposes settlement expansion.

Asked about Wednesday's developments, a State Department spokesperson said: "As we have said, this administration is strongly opposed to the expansion of settlements."

Washington desisted from such criticism when Democratic President Joe Biden's Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, was in office.

A senior US State Department official said Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the issue with Gantz on Tuesday. Their phone call was first reported by the Axios news website, which cited Israeli officials as saying it was a tense conversation in which the chief US diplomat voiced US opposition to the settlement plan.

The State Department spokesperson declined "to characterize our private discussions."

The latest projects, as well as tenders for more than 1,300 settler homes, amounted to the first major test case over settlement policy with the Biden administration that took office in January.

"The behaviour of the Israeli government under Bennett is no less extreme than what it had been under Netanyahu," Bassam Al-Salhe, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters.

"The US administration has words, and no deeds, to change the policy that had been put in place by Trump," Salhe said.

TIGHTROPE

Walking a political and diplomatic tightrope, Bennett has been facing calls from settler leaders to step up construction. Such projects are likely to be welcomed by his ultranationalist constituents, who share his opposition to Palestinian statehood.

But along with the prospect of straining relations with Washington, Bennett could alienate left-wing and Arab parties in a coalition governing with a razor-thin parliamentary majority, if they view settlement plans as too ambitious.

Most countries regard the settlements Israel has built in territory it captured in a 1967 Middle East war as illegal.

Israel disputes that and has settled some 440,000 Israelis in the West Bank, citing biblical, historical and political ties to the area, where 3 million Palestinians live.

Palestinians seek to create a state in the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.- Reuters

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 46
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Join our Telegram channel to get our Evening Alerts and breaking news highlights

israel , Palestine , Settlements , United States

   

Next In World

‘Cyber Grinches’ snatching toys should be stopped, US lawmakers say
Sexual harassment rife inside Australian parliament, report finds
UK spies seek help from tech firms against cyber threats
Myanmar court defers verdicts in Suu Kyi trial to Dec 6 - source
Google workers sue over firings stemming from US border project
New Zealand opposition picks former airline boss as new leader
Philippine leader Duterte's preferred successor quits presidential race -media
Inside the ‘big wave’ of misinformation targeted at Latinos
Japan's crown prince criticises media coverage of daughter's engagement
Saudi coalition targets IRGC site in Yemen's Sanaa - State TV

Others Also Read


Vouchers