Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Settlement expansion announced in West Bank, first since Gulf deals

By The Palestine Monitor - October 15, 2020
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [settlement construction]

Israel has approved the construction of 2,166 new illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, ending an eight-month hiatus on expansion.

The expansion announcement comes less than a month after the United Arab Emirates and Israel normalised diplomatic relations, of which a stipulation saw Israel pledge to halt annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Daifallah al-Fayez slammed the announcement in a statement, saying Israel’s plan is “a unilateral and illegal step that undermines the chances of a two-state solution”. 

Al-Fayez urged the international community to put pressure on Israel to end its illegal activities that undermine peace efforts.

Settlement construction in the West Bank is seen as a major obstacle for a feasible two-state solution, and is considered illegal under international law.

According to rights group Peace Now who monitors settlement activity in the West Bank, the uptick in settlements signals Israel’s rejection of Palestinian statehood and deals a blow to hopes of a wider Israeli-Arab peace.

“Far from a 'settlement freeze,’ the right has been complaining about, the expected settlement approvals announcement next week prove that the settlement enterprise under Netanyahu is moving ahead at full steam toward solidifying the de facto annexation of the West Bank,” the statement read.

It said about 2,000 more homes were expected to be approved on Thursday 15 October.

According to the group, there are currently around 650,000 settlers living illegally across 266 outposts and settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  

Critics see the spike in expansion as driven by strong diplomatic relations between the Netanyahu government and US President Donald Trump whose administration has reversed decades of US policy in a swathe of controversial moves since his election in 2016.

Trump administration has said it no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal, has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and subsequently relocated their embassy to the divided city, cut funding to the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, and closed down the Palestinian Liberation Organisation mission offices in Washington in response to the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to enter into US-led talks with Israel. 

In comments made during a meeting with European legislators on Tuesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the last four years of the Trump administration have greatly harmed the Palestinians.

“If we are going to live another four years with President Trump, God help us, God help you and God help the whole world,” Shtayyeh warned.

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