In rare criticism of Israeli government, Biden administration slams plans to build thousands of settlement units.
Israel has advanced plans to build slightly more than 1,300 homes for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, an official said, days after endorsing more than 3,000 homes in illegal settlements.
The Civil Administration’s high planning committee gave final approval to 170 homes and initial endorsement for another 1,133 residences for Palestinians, a spokesman for the military body that oversees civilian matters in the occupied Palestinian territories told the AFP news agency.
The units approved were scattered throughout a large swathe of the West Bank known as Area C, where Israel exercises military and planning control.
Palestinians and rights groups said the newly authorised homes met only a small fraction of the need in the 60 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control. Military permits for Palestinian construction are rarely granted and unauthorised structures are often demolished.
On Wednesday, the same Civil Administration committee gave final approval to 1,800 Jewish settler homes, and initial endorsement for another 1,344, after the United States said it “strongly” opposed such new construction in the West Bank.
The US policy stands in stark contrast to that of President Joe Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, whose presidency endorsed Israel’s activity on occupied Palestinian territory.
Twelve European countries urged Israel to “reverse” its plans for the more than 3,000 settler homes, saying settlement expansion “undermines efforts for the two-state solution.”
Israel seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967. Since then, nearly 700,000 Israelis have moved into settlements that the international community regard as illegal.
Critics saw the Monday approval of the Palestinian plans as an attempt to allay criticism from Israeli allies and the anger of left-wing partners in an unwieldy coalition government headed by right-wing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Bennett is the former head of a settler lobby group.
He has opposed Palestinian statehood and has ruled out formal peace talks with the Palestinian Authority during his tenure, but said he preferred to focus on economic improvements.
The Palestinians seek the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem – areas Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war – for their future state.
Israel views the West Bank, home to more than 2.5 million Palestinians, as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people.