Israel has advanced plans for more than 2,300 illegal settlement units deep in the occupied West Bank, Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now has reported.
The Higher Planning Committee (HPC) of the Israeli Civil Administration, the body responsible for authorizing settlement construction, convened over the course of Monday and Tuesday and approved 2,304 housing units, along with plans to retroactively legalize three outposts that were constructed illegally.
According to Peace Now, 88% of the units that were approved are located deep within the occupied territory, in settlements that “Israel will probably be forced to evacuate under a two-state agreement.”
Of the units that were advanced, 838 housing units were promoted for “validation”, the second or final stage of approval, while 1,466 housing units were approved for “deposit,” the first stage in the approval process.
The advancement of these new units comes just one week after the Israeli security cabinet announced it would be approving 715 permits for Palestinian construction in Area C of the West Bank, a move that was largely seen as a policy shift towards extending Israel’s sovereignty in the territory. Israel also approved 6,000 new settlement units at the time.
“The linkage of thousands of housing permits for settlers and a negligible number of housing units for Palestinians cannot hide the government’s discrimination policy,” Peace Now said.
The group highlighted the HPC’s approval of the illegal Haroeh Haiviri outpost that stands adjacent to the bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar “for which the government refuses to approve any construction permits and instead seeks to transfer.”
One of the more notable advancements by the HPC is the approval of the construction of a new neighborhood in the Ganei Modiin settlement, which lies just along the Green Line in the Ramallah district of the West Bank.
Plan No. 208/3/1 in Ganei Modiin will see the construction of 194 new units on the northwestern end of the settlement, right up to Israel’s separation barrier.
“Recall that just two weeks ago, Israeli authorities demolished 72 housing units in Wadi Hummus (in Area A and B) East of Jerusalem, claiming that they were built adjacent to the separation barrier and posed a security threat,” Peace Now highlighted.
Despite Palestinian residents of Wadi Hummus going so far as to apply to fund a high wall that would meet Israel’s security requirements, Peace Now noted, their application was rejected and the houses were demolished anyways.
But in the case of Ganei Modiin,“despite this inconsistency, the authorities decided to approve the construction of this plan in Ganei Modiin. The developers agreed to fund the building of a high wall for security purposes, thus resolving the matter,” Peace Now said.
There are an estimated 622,000 Israelis living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in settlements that are considered illegal under international law.
According to the Times of Israel, over the past decade of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule, Israel has begun building nearly 20,000 settler homes in the West Bank.
Many of the settlements are built on privately owned Palestinian lands, and result in the widespread destruction of Palestinian homes and agricultural land, restrictions on movement for Palestinians living in nearby towns, and settler violence towards Palestinians.
Israeli NGO B’Tselem has said “the settlements are the single most important factor in shaping life in the West Bank”:
“When it comes to Israeli settlements, the state turns a blind eye and offers support and retroactive approval, all as part of an overarching policy to de facto annex parts of the West Bank to Israel’s sovereign territory.
Palestinian communities, on the other hand, are subjected to painstaking bureaucracy, stalled plans and widespread demolitions, in keeping with Israel’s policy to prevent Palestinian development in the West Bank and continue dispossessing Palestinians of their land.”