The Israeli government has made plans for more than 3,100 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
An urban planning commission gave final approval for 1,800 housing units and preliminary approval for another 1,344.
The announcement follows a public reprimand of Israeli politics by the administration of US President Joe Biden.
He warned that he “strongly opposed the expansion of settlements” because it damaged the prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
More than 600,000 Jews live in 145 settlements built by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war. Most of the international community considers settlements illegal under international law, although Israel disputes it.
The Palestinians have asked the world to confront Israel over the “aggression” of building settlements on land they claim for a future independent state.
This week saw the most significant announcements for Israeli settlement expansion since President Biden entered the White House in January, says BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem.
The Israeli anti-settlement control body Peace Now reported that the vast majority of the new homes approved Wednesday would be built in settlements deep in the West Bank, and that several isolated settlements would undergo “massive expansion”.
The decision follows another development on Sunday, when Israeli authorities asked builders to bid for the construction of more than 1,355 settler homes that already have final approval.
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US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Tuesday he was “deeply concerned” about Israeli plans.
“We strongly oppose settlement expansion, which is completely incompatible with efforts to lower tensions and ensure calm, and harms the prospects for a two-state solution,” he said.
Mr Price added that the Biden administration “will raise our views on this issue directly with senior Israeli officials in our private discussions.”
Former US President Donald Trump showed a much more tolerant attitude towards settlement activity and stated that the settlements were not incompatible with international law.
According to Peace Now, Israel has promoted plans for more than 30,000 settler homes in the West Bank during its four years in power.
A senior Israeli official told Reuters news agency Wednesday that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government was “trying to strike a balance between its good relations with the Biden administration and various political ties.”
Bennett is a right-wing nationalist who took office in June at the head of an eight-party coalition across the entire political spectrum of Israeli politics.
He has long defended the right of Jewish settlement in the West Bank and rejects the idea of creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The prime minister ruled out the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians and said he would instead focus on initiatives to improve their living conditions.
Next week, the Israeli planning committee is expected to discuss plans for 1,300 new homes in Palestinian villages in 60% of the West Bank, classified as “Area C” under the Oslo Accords, which is under full Israeli military and civilian control.
According to Israeli media, this would be the largest number of Palestinian homes approved by Israel in over a decade.
- Israel and the Palestinians
- Palestinian territories
- Naftali Bennett
- West Bank
- Joe Biden
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