Israel authorizes construction of nearly 800 housing units in settlements

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Israel on Sunday approved the construction of 780 housing units in settlements in the occupied West Bank, ordered earlier this week by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the anti-colonial organization Peace Now.

During the election campaign for the legislative elections in March, Mr. Netanyahu ordered Monday “to advance the construction of about 800 housing units in Judea and Samaria”, a biblical name used in Israel to designate the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by the Israeli army, according to a statement from the office of the head of government.

“The Higher Planning Council today approved the construction project for 780 housing units,” La Paix Now wrote in a statement.

“By promoting hundreds of settler homes, Mr. Netanyahu is once again putting his personal interests before those of the state,” the organization denounced.

The Israeli decision “is contrary to international law and further undermines the prospect of a viable two-state solution”, criticized a spokesperson for the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell.

“We call on the Israeli government to reverse these decisions” and “to show responsibility to rebuild the confidence between the parties, necessary to lead to a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations”, underlines the statement of the spokesperson.

The Israeli announcement comes days before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, who takes a dim view of Israeli settlement expansion and pledges to step up efforts to create a Palestinian state.

Settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are considered illegal under international law. More than 450,000 Israelis reside in settlements in the West Bank, home to 2.8 million Palestinians.

The defense ministry responsible for the settlements last week postponed its decision to end plans to legalize several illegal settlements under Israeli law.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s office further said on Monday that the minister expected to present “Palestinian construction initiatives” in the West Bank next week, including the green light to hotels in the Bethlehem area, the expansion of Palestinian towns and legalization of existing constructions.

No decision was taken on Sunday on these files, according to La Paix Now.

The Council of Yesha, the main organization representing settlers in the West Bank, denounced in a statement on Sunday “segregation” against the settlers.

“By refusing to legalize Jewish settlements and by authorizing illegal Palestinian constructions, the Israeli government is segregating the Israeli inhabitants of Judea and Samaria,” the statement said.

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