Israel’s Civil Administration will advance nearly 4,000 housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank next week, the Israeli governing body that operates in the West Bank said in a statement on Friday.
According to the statement, 1,452 plans for units are expected to be advanced while 2,536 units are expected to be approved by Defense Minister Benny Gantz in a meeting slated for Thursday.
The construction plans up for approval would see 364 new apartments built in the settlement of Dolev, 534 apartments in Shvut Rahel, 761 apartments in Betar Ilit, 56 apartments in Negohot, and 156 apartments in Kiryat Arba just outside Hebron.
Additional units will be submitted for objections, with 500 apartments for the settlement of Elkana, 286 apartments for Kedumim, and 192 apartments for the settlement of Sha'arei Tikva.
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The last time Israel advanced units for Jews in the West Bank was in October, when plans for housing units for Palestinians were also approved. The approval of Palestinian homes drew criticism by right-wing lawmakers. Plans revealed Friday include only housing plans for Jews. The Biden administration strongly condemned the plans.
Right-wing lawmaker Nir Orbach, who conditioned his membership in the coalition on convening the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration, hailed Prime Minister Bennett and Gantz's agreement to his request. Orbach's party member Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked praised the announcement and said that expanding West Bank settlements is "fundamental and needed."
Left-wing lawmaker Mossi Raz said in response that "approving over 3,000 units to be built in settlements in the occupied territories is immoral and harmful for the future of the citizens of Israel."
Jalina Porter, a U.S. State Department spokesperson, said that "the Biden administration has been clear from the outset. We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements which exacerbates tensions and undermines trust between the parties.
"Israel’s program of expanding settlements deeply damages the prospect for a two-state solution," she added.
The Biden administration has reserved its harshest public posture toward Israel on matters relating to settlement construction, including strongly rebuking Israel for previously announced plans in October 2021. U.S. officials relayed these oppositions publicly as well as through private diplomatic channels.
When pressed on the evolving nature and the harsh rhetoric surrounding the new public messaging, State Department Spokesman Ned Price noted that "Our public messaging on this is consistent with what we are seeing transpire so far. It only stands to reason that our public messaging may shift over time."
U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to visit Israel in the coming months, a trip which may also include meetings in the West Bank.