Yesterday’s announcement for 1,500 more settlement units in occupied East Jerusalem took a lot of people by surprise. Israel usually staggers such announcements so they can finish diplomatic damage control on the one before announcing another, and the dispute over E1 is still fresh in everyone’s minds. It seems this is just the new normal for Israel heading into the election.
That’s because the Interior Ministry is now reporting that its panel didn’t finish with the 1,500, and in fact is going to keep meeting throughout the week to rubber stamp expansions in two more settlements in East Jerusalem, making this week’s announcements up to 6,000 units.
Since all of the units are within East Jerusalem and its immediate outskirts, the Israeli government insists they aren’t “technically settlements” because they annexed the city. That annexation isn’t recognized by anyone, however.
The sudden eagerness to expand settlements seems to be coming out of the Interior Ministry, whose head Eli Yishai is the top of the ultra-Orthodox Shas list. Recent polls have showed Shas, the traditional party of the religious right, is taking a back seat to the more hawkish Jewish Home bloc, and the moves may be designed to shore up settler support ahead of next month’s election.