Israel approved 2,700 housing units in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and advanced plans for another 1,600, a military body said, a move that will displease Washington before the US president, Joe Biden, who is expected to visit the region next month.
An Israeli Civil Administration subcommittee on Thursday approved the building plans and retroactively legalized two outposts in Area C, the 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli control. The Israeli military demolished Palestinian homes in an area where about 1,000 people are being forced to make way for a military training zone, the news came a day after the Israeli military demolished Palestinian homes.
Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, approximately 600,000 to 750,000 Jewish settlers have moved to live in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The practice is considered to be illegal and a major obstacle to the attainment of lasting peace. In Israeli law, outposts are defined as settlements built without authorization from the Israeli government.
Settler communities are allowed to build permanent structures connected to the electrical grid and water supply, while building permits for Palestinians living alongside them is almost always denied. Many Palestinians are under the constant threat of eviction and face a rising tide of settler violence designed to displace them from their homes.
The settlement plans are the biggest advancement since Biden took office, because of Thursday s batch of approvals. During Donald Trump's administration, there was a 150% growth in settlement compared to during Barack Obama's second term. Biden's White House is opposed to settlements, which it says undermines the viability of a two-state solution.
Israeli officials denied local media reports that Washington had conditioned the US president's June visit on there being no new announcements of settlement construction.
There was no immediate comment from the Palestinians or the US on the settlement approvals.
They came on the heels of Wednesday securing Palestinian homes and structures in Masafer Yatta, a cluster of villages in an area south of Hebron that Israel has designated as a military training zone.
After a two-decade legal dispute, Israel s high court said last week that about 1,000 Palestinians in Masafer Yatta could be evicted. The ruling was one of the biggest expulsion decisions since the occupation began.
Israel s ideologically diverse government, sworn in last June, includes leftists who oppose settlement building, rightwingers such as the prime minister, Naftali Bennett, who previously led a settler lobbying group, and for the first time, members of an Arab party.
An agreement to focus on areas of common ground in governance was weakened when it came to the occupation, initially united by their desire to remove the longtime former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and end four years of political turmoil.
The opening of the Knesset summer session this week was hit by immediate turbulence. The United Arab List, or Ra am, faction recently lost its majority after a wave of violence, while it focused on Jerusalem's sensitive Al Qaeda compound.
The Ra Am leader, Mansour Abbas, said on Wednesday that his party had decided to continue its partnership with the government for the benefit of Israel's Palestinian minority of 2 million people, thwarting opposition initiatives this week to pass no-confidence votes in the Knesset.