The National / August 8, 2019
The move is the latest in a surge of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank since US President Donald Trump took office
The United Nations and European Union are condemning Israel for “effective annexation” a day after it approved the construction of 2,300 new homes in illegal settlements, some far into the occupied West Bank.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab criticised the move on Wednesday as “effective annexation of the West Bank” and called on Israel to stop its development in the disputed territories.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov had a similarly harsh rebuke.
“By advancing the effective annexation of the West Bank, it undermines the chances for establishing a Palestinian state based on relevant UN resolutions, as part of a negotiated two-state solution,” he said. “It must cease immediately and completely.”
Israeli occupied the West Bank in 1967, which Palestinians claim as part of a future state. The 1995 Oslo II peace accord divided the West Bank into three parts: Area A and B under control of the Palestinian Authority and Area C, the largest part, under Israeli control. In the decades since, Israel has greatly expanded and entrenched settlements in Area C, despite that international law considers them illegal.
Israel’s Civil Administration met on Monday and Tuesday [August 5 & 6] to approve the plans, which include 1,466 homes in an early stage of planning and 838 homes needing just the final approval. According to Israeli media, seventy-seven per cent of the construction will occur deep in Area C, beyond the separation barrier and settlement blocs that Israel had been expected to keep in a peace deal. Some of the housing approved will be in outposts, meaning a settlement that Israel itself had considered illegal but now will retroactively legalise.
Other settlements approved in the plan will be built close to the separation barrier, which was ostensibly the reason why Israel said it had to demolish Palestinian homes in Wadi Hummus in Area A and B last month. According to Israeli media, another site, Haroah Ha’ivri, is just several hundred metres away from Khan al-Ahmar, a Palestinian hamlet that Israel has been threatening with demolition because it was built without a permit.
It is extremely rare for Israel to give Palestinians in Area C permits for construction. Last week, the Israeli government announced that it in a rare move it would grant 715 building permits to Palestinians in Area C. This week’s announcement appears intended to appease settlement supporters in return.
“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,” the Israeli settlement watchdog group, Peace Now, said in a statement.
Before elections in April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to annex part of the West Bank if elected. Mr Netanyahu won, but faces a redo election in September now after he failed to form a ruling coalition.
Speaking last week at the settlement Efrat, the prime minister told the crowd that that “no settlement or settler will be uprooted. That is over…What you’re doing here is forever.”
Under the Trump administration, Israel’s settlement expansion has received an all but green light. Trump’s Middle East Envoy, tasked with creating a peace plan, have not endorsed a two-state solution, in a break with decades of US policy.
Mr Netanyahu reportedly did not discuss settlements in his speech on Wednesday to 41 Democrats in the US House of Representatives visiting on a tour sponsored by an affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Aging and ailing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also met with the congressional delegation and repeated his “rejection of American…decisions related to Jerusalem, refugees, borders and security,” according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency.
Miriam Berger – editor