Israel approves more than 2,300 settler homes in West Bank: Report

JerusalemUpdated: Oct 31, 2019, 08:41 PM IST
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This represented an increase of close to 50 per cent compared with 2018 when plans for 5,618 housing units were approved.

Israel has approved the construction of 2,342 settler homes in the occupied West Bank, settlement watchdog Peace Now said on Thursday.

It said the decision was taken on October 10 and that 59 per cent of the new homes will be erected in "settlements that Israel likely may evacuate under a peace agreement" with the Palestinians.

According to Peace Now, which closely monitors Israeli settlement building, plans for 8,337 housing units in the settlements have been approved since the beginning of the year.

It said this represented an increase of close to 50 per cent compared with 2018 when plans for 5,618 housing units were approved.

"This brings the average number of housing units approved in the three years since President Trump was elected, to 6,899 housing units, almost twice the average in the three years preceding them," said the NGO.

All settlements are considered illegal under international law and are built on land that the Palestinians see as part of their future state, but Israel distinguishes between those it has approved and those it has not.

Peace Now said that settlement construction has increased under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for his political survival after failing to form a coalition government following September elections.

"Netanyahu continues to sabotage the possibility of a political agreement with the Palestinians by promoting more settlement construction in the West Bank, including in places where Israel may have to evacuate as part of a future agreement," Peace Now said.

Included in the 2,342 new housing units are 182 that are due to be built in Mevoot Yericho, a former outpost near Jericho which the Netanyahu government legalised before the September polls, Peace Now said.

Ramping up the construction of settlement homes is yet another dangerous step for both Israel and the Palestinians, led by a transitional prime minister whom the public did not trust in his policies.

"The next government must put a freeze on the development of settlements and to strive for immediate resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions and to end the bloody conflict based on the principle of two states for two peoples," Peace Now added.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has tasked ex-military chief Benny Gantz to form a government after Netanyahu failed to set up a coalition for the second time this year.

Some 600,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem among around 2.9 million Palestinians.