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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Israel approves plans for more than 1,000 West Bank settlement homes

Settlers complained that Benjamin Netanyahu's government did not approve enough

A bedouin man watches as an excavator digs in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.  AFP
A bedouin man watches as an excavator digs in the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.  AFP

Israel has approved plans for more than 1,000 illegal settlement homes in the West Bank, the latest in a series of inflammatory announcements since US President Donald Trump entered the Oval Office.

The plans, approved by a defence ministry committee, are likely to add to Palestinian ire over a raft of Israeli moves that have been unopposed in Washington.

Mr Trump’s administration has failed to condemn Israel’s nationalist government for its continued West Bank settlement building, considered illegal by the majority of the international community, and there was once again silence from the White House on Wednesday.

The move to approve 1,004 more housing units, including 400 that received final approval for their construction to begin, came as the Palestinians reiterated their rejection of any ‘deal of the century’ proposed by President Trump to solve the decades-long conflict.

At a West Virginia rally on Tuesday, Mr Trump said: “Now [Jerusalem's] off the table, there is nothing to negotiate. But they [the Palestinians] will get something very good because it's their turn next”.

Palestinian official Ahmad Al Tamimi told Wafa news agency that those comments were “worthless” and his remark that Jerusalem is off the negotiating table “a continuation of the US policies in favour of the Israel”.

Since US President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, Israel has promoted plans for 10,536 units and tenders for 5,679 units in the West Bank.

The Palestinians have condemned his government for what it perceives as pro-Israeli moves, such as relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and failing to censure Israel for the construction of its first settlement for two decades.

The majority of the international community considers Israel's settlement enterprise to be illegal under international law, as it transfers one population into the territory of another people by force. Israel's military, the most powerful in the Middle East, protects the settlers and their outposts.

Approximately 96 per cent of the settlements announced on Wednesday are in an area Israel would be forced to leave in any two-state solution, the anti-settlement NGO Peace Now said.

The largest project advanced in the latest approvals included 370 housing units in the Geva Binyamin settlement – also known as Adam – where Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted he would build more units after a Palestinian stabbed three Israelis in July, one fatally.

In addition to the approval of plans, the Israeli government intends to promote a future plan for 300 units in Beit El, one of the most hardline Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Mr Trump’s team of Middle East officials is viewed by the Palestinians as the most supportive of Israel since Israel's creation in 1948. His ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is a donor to projects in the settlements, as is the family of Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and adviser.

Mr Friedman was a major proponent of the US embassy move to Jerusalem, a decision that the majority of the international community rejected. The consensus remains that the status of the city should be decided through negotiations and not through unilateral moves.

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