Israel has approved 3000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank, officials said Tuesday, marking a major settlement expansion following the election of US President Donald Trump.
The planned new homes approved by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman may be the largest number to have been given the green light since 2013, said settlement watchdog Peace Now.
Settlements in both the West Bank and east Jerusalem are viewed as illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians want for their own state.
Federica Mogherini, the bloc’s foreign policy chief, released on Wednesday a strongly worded statement decrying continued settlement expansion, which she noted is “illegal under international law”.
Since Trump came to power, Israel has approved the construction of 566 housing units in three settlement areas of occupied East Jerusalem and announced the building of 2,502 more in the West Bank.
On Thursday last week, Israeli officials gave final approval for 153 settler homes in East Jerusalem.
“Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have decided to authorise the construction of 3,000 new housing units in Judea-Samaria,” the defence ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, using the term Israel uses for the West Bank, a Palestinian territory it has occupied since 1967.
“Since the start of 2017, the Israeli authorities have made clear that they plan to accelerate the construction of illegal settlement homes and seize further Palestinian territory in flagrant violation of international law,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Obama’s administration grew frustrated with Israeli settlement building, warning it was eating away at prospects of a two-state solution.
The United States, in a rare move, declined to veto a December 23 UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building, allowing it to pass 14-0.
Trump had called for the resolution to be vetoed. And since his inauguration the settlement plan has been accelerated.