Israel’s far-right government has approved record construction in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank in its first six months in power, according to the left-wing Israeli movement Peace Now.
The organisation said on Thursday that the construction of 12,855 settler housing units had been approved across the West Bank since January, the largest number it has recorded since it started tracking such developments in 2012.
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“In the past six months, the only sector that Israel has vigorously promoted is the settlement enterprise,” Peace Now said in a statement.
Israel’s Higher Planning Council (HPC) met three times this year for the purpose of promoting construction plans, it added.
Settlement expansions have become a top priority for the new government.
Last month, it approved plans for thousands of new housing units in the occupied West Bank and gave far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich sweeping powers to expedite the construction of settlements, bypassing measures that have been in place for 27 years.
Following Smotrich’s new powers, the Ministry of Defense planning committee that oversees settlement construction approved more than 5,000 new settlement homes in late June.
The HPC also approved the promotion of settlements in February and May of this year, Peace Now said.
In recent weeks, there has been growing criticism of Israel’s settlement policies from the United States, but little indication that it would translate into a change in US policy towards Israel.
More than 700,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967.
More than three million Palestinians live in the same area, subject to Israeli military rule that rights groups have equated to apartheid.