Israel Announces New Settlement Construction Days Before Biden Inauguration

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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Karnei Shomron settlement in 2019
Karnei Shomron settlement in 2019Credit: Eyal Toueg
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz are advancing the construction of some 850 Jewish housing units in West Bank settlements, days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20.

The Administration's Supreme Planning Council is expected to advance construction of the housing units, currently in various stages of approval, during its next meeting, but the date for the meeting hasn't been set yet. 

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At that meeting, 100 housing units are expected to be advanced in Tal Menashe, where Esther Horgan resided until she was murdered last month by a Palestinian in the neighboring Reihan Forest.

Tal Mensahe is on the Israeli side of the separation barrier, but it is located outside of the Green Line. Since the murder, settler leaders, led by the head of Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, have applied pressure to approve the new housing units.

In addition, some 500 housing units in Karnei Shomron, Beit El, Oranit, Givat Ze’ev and Itamar are expected to receive final approval at the meeting. About 250 more housing units that were built in Nofei Nechama will be legalized and become a neighborhood within Rehelim.

Palestinians condemned such construction as illegal. The timing of the move appeared to be an attempt to set Israel’s blueprint in indelible ink before Joe Biden, who has been critical of its settlement policies, becomes U.S. president on January 20.

“It is an attempt to race against time and benefit from the last days of the current U.S. administration,” Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters.

Gantz also said that the 46 unauthorized outposts originally included in the proposed law would not be legalized, unless a resolution was reached on the enforcement of illegal construction in the West Bank, Kan public broadcaster reported on Sunday. In practice, this means that the legalization of the outposts will not be done all in one go, as professional staff had predicted, due to the different legal challenges surrounding each outpost. 

Meanwhile, in recent days, the heads of the “Forum for Young Settlement” have established a protest encampment across from the Knesset, demanding that these outposts be legalized, and some of them have even announced that they have started a hunger strike.  a different legal situation.

In 2010, a serious diplomatic incident occurred when during a visit to Israel by Biden, then Obama’s vice president, the District Planning and Building Committee approved construction of hundreds of homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. The White House was furious over the move, which led to a long freeze on construction in East Jerusalem.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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