West Bank settlement watch group says Israel should move forward this week with thousands of new homes for Jewish settlers in occupied territory
TEL AVIV, Israel – Israel is expected to build thousands of new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank this week, a settlement watch group said on Sunday.
The plan for some 3,000 new settler units in the West Bank has already sparked calls for restraint from the United States, which on Friday expressed “concern” over the pending approvals.
Hagit Ofran of the anti-settlement group Peace Now said a committee was due to meet on Wednesday to approve 2,800 units deep in the West Bank, complicating any effort to create a Palestinian state. More than half of them receive final approval, which means construction could begin within the next year.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday that the United States was “concerned” about the housing plans. He called on Israel and the Palestinians to “refrain from unilateral measures that exacerbate tensions and undermine efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution” to the conflict.
Palestinians seek the West Bank, as well as the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem – areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War – for their future state. Palestinians view the settlements, home to some 700,000 settlers, as the main obstacle to peace. Most of the international community considers the settlements to be illegal.
Israel views the West Bank as the biblical and historical heart of the Jewish people.
Ofran said Israel is also on the verge of approving 1,600 units for Palestinians in areas of the West Bank it controls. But critics say the move comes on the initiative of the villagers, not the Israeli government, and that the figure is a fraction of the building permits that Palestinians have requested over the years.