In a move seen as an effort to placate the rest of his far-right coalition government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that there will no longer be any coordination done on the construction of buildings in settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, insisting “we can build where we want and as much as we want.”
The weekend saw a flurry of settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, with officials approving 566 houses in permits. The announcements of the permits were reportedly held off until after the inauguration of President Trump, to try to avoid turning them into a political issue.
The broader intention to build without restriction in East Jerusalem in the future is seen mainly as a concession meant to convince the rest of the coalition government to delay a vote on annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank. While the annexations were meant to spite the UN for recent calls to stop expanding the settlements, Netanyahu appeared concerned they would prompt more international condemnation.
How long the annexation vote is delayed is unclear, as initial reports were that the vote was on hold until Netanyahu meets President Trump in a couple of weeks, while other officials indicated that the agreement was just not to vote on it today, and that it could happen at any time.
Netanyahu is, however, also presenting the further escalation of settlements as just the beginning, suggesting he intends to expand the “sovereignty” to build without limitations into settlements within the West Bank at some point in the future.