The Israeli cabinet approved on Tuesday, January 31, the construction of more than 3,000 new illegal settlement homes across the occupied West Bank, just hours after the widely condemned outpost “Legalization Bill” – which would retroactively legalize dozens of illegal Israeli outposts – passed its final committee vote in Israel’s parliament.
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported late Tuesday evening that far right-wing Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to approve the construction of the housing units in existing West Bank settlements, with more than 2,000 slated for immediate construction. “We are in a new period in which life in Judea and Samaria is back on track,” Lieberman said in a statement announcing the plans, using the Israeli term “Judea and Samaria” for the occupied Palestinain West Bank.
According to Haaretz, Liberman’s statement details the names of most of the settlements to which the decision applies and the actual number of newly approved housing units per settlement: Alfe Menashe in the Qalqiliya district – 700 units; Oranit in the Qalqiliya district – 200 units; Nofim in the Salfit district – 50 units; Beit Arye in the Ramallah district – 650 units; Efrat in the Bethlehem district – 30 units; Noqdim (where Liberman personally resides) in the Bethlehem district – 150 units; Givat Zeev in the Jerusalem district – 150 units; Shave Shomeron in the Nablus district – 70 units; Karnei Shomron in the Qalqiliya district – 100 units; Shilo in the Nablus district – 100 units; Mazadot Yehuda in the Hebron district – 100 units; Kfar Eldad in the Bethlehem district – 80 units; and Betar Illit in the Bethlehem district – 650 units. The above thirteen settlements together have received an aggregate of 2,880 approvals for new housing units.
Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat released a statement Tuesday, describing Israel’s continued settlement expansion as an “immoral situation,” as he called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “open an immediate investigation into the Israeli settlement enterprise.” Erekat slammed the decision, saying that “throughout the first month of 2017, Israel has pushed for the construction of more than 3,200 new settlement units,” which has led to the demolition of around 30 Palestinian homes and to the “forced displacement of close to 40 Palestinian families comprising 240 people.”
Erekat’s statement highlighted that more than half of the displaced Palestinians were children, and the “close to half of all demolished properties were donor-funded.” “The commitment of Netanyahu’s government to colonization and segregation and its determination to defy international law and resolutions continues to destroy the prospects of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine,” Erekat said, adding that the Palestinian leadership “will pursue all necessary political, legal and diplomatic steps in order to hold Israel accountable and to bring justice to our people.” Erekat implored to the international community to implement the United Nations Security Council resolution 2334, saying that “Israel continues to systematically violate the rights of the Palestinian people and to give a green light and support for settlers to take over more Palestinian land and to terrorize the Palestinian population,” something that “should not be tolerated” by the international community.
Earlier Tuesday, two parliamentary committees in Israel’s Knesset, the Legislative Committee and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, approved by a narrow vote, seven in favor and six against, the “Legalization Bill,” which would retroactively authorize dozens of Israeli outposts – considered illegal under both international and Israeli domestic law – as they were built on thousands of dunams of privately owned, unlawfully confiscated Palestinian land. According to the Hadash parliamentary faction in the Knesset, the proposed legislation would allow the Israeli government to appropriate land if its Palestinian owners could not be identified, or offer compensation packages to the landowners – either by leasing the land or offering them alternate plots of land. According to Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), “the legislation would pave the way to annexing the majority of the West Bank.”