Watchdog: Israel launches bids for 1,000 settlement homes

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government has authorized tenders for the construction of more than 1,000 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, an official reported Friday. watchdog group, despite Israel’s pledge to halt settlement construction as part of efforts to stem a wave of deadly violence in the territory.

The Israel Lands Authority released tenders earlier this week for the construction of 940 homes in the West Bank settlements of Efrat and Beitar Ilit, as well as 89 homes in the settlement of Gilo, which lies above the 1967 line at the southern boundary of the disputed area. capital of Jerusalem. The large settlement of Efrat is located in the heart of the West Bank, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

Palestinians seek these lands, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, for a future independent state alongside Israel – a long-standing international goal.

The Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now released the building bids on Friday.

“This is another harmful and unnecessary construction initiative,” the group said, accusing the Israeli government of “trampling the possibility of a future political agreement and our relations with the United States and friendly countries.” .

There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu’s office.

The new affront to Palestinians came just a week after Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Egypt’s southern resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh in a bid to calm rising tensions ahead of the holy month. Ramadan Muslim. After the meeting, Israel reiterated a promise made at a similar February summit in Aqaba, Jordan, to temporarily freeze approval of new settlement units in the West Bank.

Yet last month the government authorized more than 7,000 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including four unauthorized outposts – despite a UN Security Council statement sharply criticizing the expansion of settlements. Israeli settlements and growing opposition from Israel’s allies, including the United States.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, called the publication of the tenders this week procedural, saying: “All agreements reached during recent joint summits in Jordan and Egypt are fully respected. ”

Israel’s most right-wing and religiously conservative government in its history has said it aims to entrench Israeli military rule in the West Bank, spur settlement building and erase differences for Israelis between life in the colonies and within the country’s internationally recognized borders. . Netanyahu’s coalition includes ultra-nationalist settler leaders who live in the West Bank.

The international community, along with the Palestinians, views settlement building as illegal or illegitimate. Over 700,000 Israelis now live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The offers to build settlements come amid heightened tensions with Palestinians and a national crisis in Israel over a government plan to overhaul the justice system, which critics fear could drag Israel down the drain. ‘autocracy.

Since the start of 2023, at least 86 Palestinians, activists and civilians, have been killed in Israeli raids across the West Bank, making it the deadliest start to the year in more than two decades. At least 13 civilians and a policeman were killed during the same period in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.


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