JERUSALEM (Reuters) — Israel announced plans on Wednesday to build 851 new homes for settlers in the occupied West Bank after parliament defeated a bill to sanction all settler apartments on privately-owned Palestinian land.
Palestinians insist Israeli settlements, built on land Israel captured in a 1967 war, will deny them a viable state, and they refuse to return to peace talks frozen since 2010 until their expansion is halted.
Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Atias announced the plan to build 551 housing units in various settlements across the West Bank and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier said 300 new apartments would be constructed in the settlement of Beit El.
Atias said 117 housing units would be built in Ariel, 92 in Maale Adumim, 144 in Adam, 114 in Efrat and 84 in Kiryat Arba settlements.
Netanyahu won a parliamentary battle against an attempt by far-right lawmakers to sanction all settler homes on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and pledged to abide by a Supreme Court ruling and remove five settler apartment houses on Palestinian land in the settlement of Beit El.
But when the right-wing leader announced that his government would have to abide by the court ruling he added that the 30 families living in the apartments that would have to be removed would remain in Beit El “and 300 more families will join them.”
The UN World Court considers the settlements illegal.
Netanyahu’s announcement drew a reaction from US State Department spokesman Mark Toner who said the United States was aware of the announcement to build 300 new homes.
“We are very clear that continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank undermines peace efforts and contradicts Israeli commitments and obligations,” Toner said.
President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday urged the UN and the US to pressure Israel to stop expanding illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land and to engage in serious negotiations with the PLO.
“Our region needs bridges of cooperation, peace and dialogue rather than walls and settlement expansion,” he said in a speech at the International Economic Forum in Istanbul.
The president warned Israel that time was running out to achieve peace in light of political upheavals in the region.
Addressing Israel, the president said: “Don’t turn your back on the historic opportunity which is available today, but might not be available for long.”
Abbas reiterated his call for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, and said an end to occupation and settlement building were prerequisites for a sovereign Palestinian state.
Source: Maan News