By Ella Lloyd | Political Editor
The Israeli government looks set to approve 3000 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank.
Final approval was given for 1800 homes, and preliminary approval given for a further 1344.
Anti-settlement, pro two-state solution pressure group Peace Now said in a report that the plans ‘harm the Israeli interest and the chances of reaching peace’.
Currently there are over 600,000 Jewish people living in settlements in the West Bank and other territories captured by Israel in the six-day war of 1967. Much of the international community view these settlements as illegal under international law, although Israel denies this, laying claim to the west Bank and Gaza as the biblical and historical homeland of the Jewish people.
Palestinians claim the West Bank and Gaza and wish to form a state out of the territories, with East Jerusalem as the capital. Around 3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank.
Israel’s expansion comes despite significant opposition fromthe US, with State Department spokesperson Ned Price saying ‘We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm, and it damages the prospects for a two-state solution.’
This is a marked change from the previous administration under former President Donald Trump, who said that settlements were not illegal. Plans for some 30,000 settler homes were pushed during the Trump Administration.
11 European countries including France, Germany, and Ireland have also signed a statement opposing the expansion.
Bassam Al-Salhe of the Palestine Liberation Organisation told Reuters ‘The behaviour of the Israeli government under Bennett is no less extreme than what it had been under Netanyahu.’
The recently elected Prime Minister of Israel, Naftali Bennet, is a far-right former settler leader but heads a coalition government with differing views on the settlements. Ultra-nationalist members and civilians will likely welcome new settlements if they are built. However, Bennet risks straining relationships with centrist and dovish members of the coalition which he holds a slim majority in, as well as Arab parties and the international community.
For construction to begin, permits will have to be issued by Israel’s centrist Defence Minister, Benny Gantz.
Israel-Palestine peace talks fell apart in 2014, and Naftali Bennet has refused to continue them, instead promising to improve living conditions for Palestinians. The Israeli Prime Minister opposes the creation of a Palestinian state.
Alongside these settlements, the Israeli planning Committee is making plans for 1,300 new homes for Palestinians in areas under Israeli military control. It would be the largest number of homes Israel has approved for Palestinians in 10 years, however rights groups say that this is just a fraction of what is needed.Ella Lloyd Politics twitter Follow @gairrhyddpol for all of the latest updates from the world of politics.