Israeli authorities have approved over 1,000 new illegal settlement units in the occupied West Bank, sparking condemnation from both Palestinian and international officials.
The Higher Planning Committee of the Civil Administration, the Israeli agency responsible for enforcing the government’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, announced the approvals earlier this week.
According to settlement watchdog Peace Now, the majority of the new housing units, around 96%, were approved in “isolated” settlements that the group says would “likely need to evacuate within the framework of a two-state agreement.”
Among the settlements that received approvals for new units goes as follows: 52 units in Beit El, 44 units in Ma’ale Adumim, 370 units in Geva Binyamin (Adam), 84 in Kiryat Netafim, 56 in Barkan, six in Avnei Hefetz, 168 in Zofim, 108 in Nofim, 29 in Otniel, and 85 in Karnei Shomron.
Peace Now added that last week, two new tenders were issued for the construction of 603 units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramat Shlomo, and 511 units in the Ramallah-area settlement of Beit Arye.
Last week, Mondoweiss reported on the construction of a new settler-only road that is being built between Beit Arye and its sister settlement, Ofarim.
The road cuts through the Palestinian villages of Aboud and al-Lubban al-Gharbiya, and will see the confiscation of hundreds of dunams of land from local farmers.
Residents of Aboud spoke to Mondoweiss about their fears that the road was merely a front for the confiscation of more village land to be used for settlement housing construction in order to create a settlement bloc in the area.
At the time, a spokesperson from the Israeli Civil Administration denied allegations that the land would be used for settlement housing, telling Mondoweiss that the land is “strictly being used for the construction of the road.”
One of the plans that was notably removed from the Higher Planning Committee’s docket, was the construcking of an educational institution in the Haro’e Ha’ivri (Nofei Prat South) outpost, which was established illegally in 2015.
The outpost, according to Peace Now, is located just 1.5 km away from the Bedouin community of Khan Al-Ahmar.
The European Union released a statement on Thursday strongly condemning the new approvals, saying “the EU is strongly opposed to Israel’s settlement policy which is illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.”
“The EU will continue to engage with both parties and with its international and regional partners to support a resumption of a meaningful process towards a negotiated two-state solution, the only realistic and viable way to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties,” the statement said.
UK Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, also condemned the move, and called upon Israel to “halt such counterproductive action.”
Palestinian leaders double down on their criticisms, with Secretary-General of the PLO Saeb Erekat calling on the international community to impose sanctions on Israel for its continued settlement expansion.
“The colonial-settlement expansion in occupied Palestine by the Israeli occupying power is not only a grave violation of international humanitarian law but a war crime that would not be taking place if the international community did not treat Israel as a state above the law,” Erekat said in a statement.
Erekat went on to accuse the US of encouraging Israel “to continue with its violations of international law that threatens peace and security in our region”.
According to Peace Now, since the election of US President Donald Trump, the Israeli government has promoted plans for 10,536 units and tenders for 5,679 units in settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international law.
The international community has consistently maintained that the presence of settlers in the occupied Palestinian territory is one of the major impediments to peace in the region.