Israel Approves Permits for 715 Palestinian Homes in West Bank Towns

Cabinet decision on Area C construction comes days before Trump envoy Kushner is expected in Israel for talks on Middle East peace plan

Netanyahu during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, May, 2019.
Emil Salman

Israel's security cabinet unanimously approved Tuesday construction permits for 715 housing units in Palestinians towns in Area C of the West Bank, the first such decision since 2016.

However, it remains unclear whether the plans are for the construction of new units or the legalization of existing structures built without permits. however, no official decisions on the plans have been made.

Area C covers parts of the West Bank under full Israeli control, based on the Oslo Accords.

Sources familiar with the matter told Haaretz 6,000 housing units in Jewish settlement in the West Bank have also been approved.

>> Read more: At least 16 Israeli unauthorized West Bank outposts established since 2017 ■ First they'll take Area C, then they'll take the West Bank | Opinion

Political sources believe the relatively unusual discussion, first reported Monday by Kan public broadcaster, could be due to American pressure.

Construction of the settlement of Efrat, June 16, 2019.
Emil Salman

In the coming days, U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is expected to arrive in Israel to discuss the economic chapter of his Middle East peace plan.

Settler leaders bashed news of the plan. Mateh Binyamin Regional Council chief Israel Gantz and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan issued a joint statement on Monday, calling the proposal "particularly worrying."

"The Palestinian Authority, with the assistance and funding of foreign elements, is carrying out massive illegal construction in these areas with the clear goal of establishing a terrorist state in the heart of the country," the two wrote.

"We hope that this does not, heaven forbid, constitute a gesture toward the government that will be established after the election," the statement added.

The head of the South Hebron Hills regional council, Yochai Damari, said that he was "stunned" by the news, adding "we are waging a struggle against the Palestinian chokehold on our settlement, and only that is a fitting topic to convene a cabinet meeting for."

Shlomo Ne'eman, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council also slammed the plans, referring to "the suffering of the homeland, known as Area C, since the Oslo disaster."

"We discovered that the Arab approach of stealing a dunam and another dunam ... pays off for them," Ne'eman added.