Israel has advanced plans for more than 2,300 settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, the latest in a surge of such approvals since U.S. President Donald Trump took office, an NGO said Tuesday.
A defense ministry planning committee issued the approvals while meeting over the past couple of days, the Peace Now NGO said in a statement. The 2,304 housing units are at various stages in the approval process.
“The approval of settlement plans is part of a disastrous government policy designed to prevent the possibility of peace and a two-state solution, and to annex part or all of the West Bank,” said Peace Now, which closely monitors Israeli settlement building.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged before April elections to annex settlements in the West Bank, a move sought by the country’s far-right.
Settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law and are seen by most world leaders as highly inflammatory and corrosive to the prospect of peace.
Annexing settlements on a large-scale in the West Bank would likely prove to be a death knell for the two-state solution, long the focus of international efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In 2016, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning settlement expansion, with the United States under outgoing President Barack Obama abstaining. Other efforts to censure Israel over its settlement policy, before and since, have been routinely blocked by the U.S.
Because Israeli leaders are dedicated to keeping Israel a Jewish state, many Palestinians, activists and intellectuals fear a permanent state of occupation and subjugation if the Palestinians are unable to realize a state of their own.
Though Israel officially supports a two-state solution, the continuation of the settlement policy has lead many to doubt its leaders’ sincerity. Netanyahu has directed blame for the lack of diplomatic progress onto the Palestinians, particularly onto Hamas, which rules Gaza and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S., and other Israeli allies.
Last week, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that a Palestinian state would be “an existential threat to Israel,” contracting longstanding official U.S. policy in favor of the two-state solution.
The Trump administration has also supported Israel’s move to annex the Syrian Golan Heights, another major reversal of U.S. foreign policy in support of a move that’s illegal under international law.
Last week, Israel’s security cabinet gave rare approval to 700 Palestinian homes in the part of the West Bank under the country’s full control while also approving 6,000 homes for settlers.
Details of those plans were not publicly released, and some of the 6,000 settler homes may be included in this week’s committee approvals, said Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran.
The plan for Palestinians, though relatively small and far outweighed by the new settlement homes, could allow Netanyahu to argue he is making efforts in favor of the White House’s long-awaited peace plan.