Israel’s illegal West Bank settlement plans face global condemnation

The 3,500 illegal housing units in the occupied West Bank add to nearly 20,000 approved in the past year.

unfinished concrete homes can be seen in a desert
A construction site of new housing projects in the Israeli settlement of Givat Ze'ev [File: Ohad Zwigenberg/AP Photo]

Israel’s plan to build thousands of new homes in the occupied West Bank is facing widespread condemnation from several countries, including some of Tel Aviv’s staunchest allies.

The country’s settlement-planning authority on Wednesday greenlit permits for nearly 3,500 new illegal settlement housing units in the occupied Palestinian territory, the first such approval since Israel’s war on Gaza began on October 7 last year.

Israeli settlements have long been viewed as a violation of international law, and a hindrance to Palestinian statehood by the international community. Officials say the latest constructions, planned in Maale Adumim, Kedar and Efrat, are in retaliation for a February shooting targeting illegal settlers.

“The enemies try to harm and weaken us, but we will continue to build and be built up in this land,” far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in charge of civil affairs in the West Bank, said on X.

Smotrich said the constructions add to the 18,515 housing units in illegal settlements approved in the past year.

The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called the settlements illegal and illegitimate, adding that they “are a call for the cycle of violence to persist”.

“The ministry calls for swift international sanctions that would deter Israel from building more settlements and to include [National Security Minister Itamar] Ben-Gvir and Smotrich as well as any other Israeli official who plays a role in deepening and funding illegal settlements,” the ministry said in a statement.

Global condemnation

Hamas, the group that rules the Gaza Strip, has called Israel’s move “a confirmation of the Zionist plan aimed at controlling our land, restricting our people, and isolating them”.

“We affirm that this false declaration has no legal or legal basis, and is nothing but a message of defiance and recklessness,” the group said in a statement, calling on the United Nations to take “punitive steps against this criminal entity and its Nazi leaders”.

Hamas also warned “against remaining silent about [Israel’s] violations that increase tension and escalation in the region”.

Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the settlements were unilateral and illegal measures that violate international law and undermine peace efforts and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also “condemned in the strongest terms” the approval, stressing that such moves “pose a serious threat to international efforts aimed at implementing the two-state solution and hinder the resumption of the peace process”, according to state media.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said there is a need to “provide hope for the Palestinian people, enable them to obtain their rights to live in safety, and establish their Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and relevant international resolution”.

Further afield, in Europe, Germany has asked Israel to withdraw the plans, adding they are “a serious violation of international law”.

“We strongly condemn the approval of further settlement units in the West Bank,” the country’s Federal Foreign Office said in a statement.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the plans were “illegal, disappointing, and counterproductive to achieving enduring peace”.

“Our administration maintains firm opposition to settlement expansion,” Blinken said at a news conference in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires last week.

“In our judgement, it only weakens, not strengthens Israel’s security,” he added, although he made no mention of tangible consequences Israel could face for settlement expansion.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies