In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, Israel has seen U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry out the door by announcing 272 new homes in two West Bank settlements.
An Israeli official confirms that Israel has promoted plans for 272 new apartments in two isolated West Bank settlements.
The final step in the approval process came as US Secretary of State John Kerry wrapped up another Middle East trip as part of his attempt to forge a peace deal.
The anti-settlement group Peace Now said Monday that Israeli authorities published the building plans for the settlements of Ofra and Karnei Shomron a day earlier. Peace Now says construction could begin in coming weeks.
Major Guy Inbar, an Israeli defense official, confirmed the plans were published. He says the initial approval was given in October.
US brokered peace talks have put the government coalition in a bind. While centrist Yesh Atid, led by Finance Minister Yair Lapid support a peace talks and a two-state solution, Habayit Hayehudi, led by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, opposes the two-state arrangement and has been vocally critical of peace talks.
Israel’s move to release the 104 Palestinian prisoners jailed from before the 1993 Oslo Accords as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians came in response to right-wing reluctance to accept a freeze in settlement construction.
Thus, in a bid to perserve the coalition, following every round of prisoner releases, Netanyahu’s office is quick to publish new tenders for construction of thousands of new housing units beyond Jerusalem’s 1967 borders.
The Israeli government had made its intention to expand settlements known last week before Kerry arrived as Netanyahu attempts to mollify the U.S. government and his own right-wing base.
It seems Netanyahu will continue to get pressure from the right. Israeli Finance Minister Naftali Bennett announced today that his Habayit Hayehudi party “will never accept an agreement based on the 1967 lines,” and threatened to leave the governing coalition if talks lead to a shared Jerusalem.
“If our friends in the world ask us to commit suicide – even if they have good intentions – we will tell them ‘no,'” Bennett said, about the international pressure to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. “They tell us there is an occupation and that it’s immoral as Jews. Let me tell you this – we are not occupiers in our land,” he said. . .
Referring to the so-called demographic threat, Bennett said that “They scare us with the demographic demon and that there won’t be a Jewish majority. That’s incorrect; in fact, the opposite is true. Arab birthrates are falling. The day after a diplomatic agreement, the Palestinians will open their borders to hundreds of thousands refuges and their descendants. Imagine driving on Highway 6 and seeing them lining the fences.”
Rather than a peace agreement, Bennett says Israel just needs “a strong army and faith.”