Middle East

Israel approves new homes in West Bank

Cabinet authorises 3,000 units in illegal settlements in occupied territory, a day after UN upgraded Palestine's status.
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2012 18:38
The decision was approved by a cabinet of nine senior ministers led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu [Reuters]

The Israeli government has approved the construction of 3,000 new homes in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, less than 24 hours after the UN voted for Palestine to be upgraded to a non-member observer state, according to Israeli media reports.

The homes will be built both in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, but the government did not stipulate in which settlements.

According to a report in Haaretz, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu also plans to "promote planning and construction" in the so-called E-1 area between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim, a major settlement with nearly 40,000 inhabitants.

Hagit Ofran, who runs the Settlement Watch project at Peace Now, said the announcement would not mean immediate construction in the E-1 area. "There is no plan ready for implementation," she said. "In order to build, they must approve plans."

The Obama administration has tried to discourage construction in E-1, which would cut off East Jerusalem from surrounding Arab towns and further carve up the West Bank, already riven by Israeli settlements and military checkpoints.

The White House issued a brief statement on the announcement, which used largely the same language that the US has used for years in condemning Israeli settlement expansion.

"We reiterate our longstanding opposition to settlements and East Jerusalem construction and announcements," said Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman. "We believe these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations or achieve a two-state solution."

The decision was made by Israel's "security cabinet," a forum of nine senior ministers led by Netanyahu.

Israel's government had threatened to approve further construction in the settlements as a possible response to Palestine's bid for recognition. The prime minister's office would not comment on whether the announcement was punishment for the UN vote.

Palestinian officials have anyway described it as a meaningless threat: Even before the bid, Netanyahu's government has been approved thousands of new settler homes each year.


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