Israel 'advances plans' for nearly 2,200 settler homes

It is the first such approvals since snap polls were called earlier this week, after the ruling coalition collapsed.

    Settlements in occupied Palestinian territories play an important role in Israel's right-wing politics [Ammar Awad/Reuters]
    Settlements in occupied Palestinian territories play an important role in Israel's right-wing politics [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

    Israeli authorities have advanced plans for nearly 2,200 settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, an NGO and Israeli media said.

    A defence ministry committee with responsibility for such projects on Tuesday and Wednesday approved the plans, the settlement watchdog Peace Now said in a statement.

    It said 1,159 housing units were given final approvals before building permits can be issued, while 1,032 were at an earlier stage.

    The Times of Israel website also reported the development, saying in total 2,191 settlement homes are expected to be advanced this week.

    It is the first such approvals since snap polls were called earlier this week, after the ruling right-wing government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu collapsed.

    On Monday, Netanyahu agreed to dissolve parliament and call for early elections on April 9.

    Netanyahu meets settler leaders 

    The settlements, which play an important role in Israel's right-wing politics, have surged under Netanyahu. Earlier on Wednesday, he met settler leaders in Jerusalem.  

    "We'll see an attempt by the left-wing to overthrow our rule with the help of the media and others," he said, speaking of the elections.

    "They can't succeed, because if they do - that will pose a clear danger to the settlement movement."

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    Israeli settlements have also long been viewed as a major roadblock to a viable Palestinian state.

    They are considered a violation of international law and major stumbling blocks to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinian leaders want for their future state including occupied East Jerusalem.

    More than 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, which range in size from tiny hamlets to large towns. A further 200,000 live in settlements in East Jerusalem.

    There are some 400 settlements in the Palestinian territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war, built with or without government approval.

    SOURCE: News agencies