On Wednesday, Israel approved the construction of 2,166 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank, putting to bed rumors that the normalization agreements with the UAE and Bahrain included a freeze on settlements.
The new homes are the first to be approved after an eight-month pause on settlement construction. Another 2,000 homes are expected to be approved for construction on Thursday.
Since President Trump unveiled his “Vision for Peace” in January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been hoping to annex portions of the West Bank allocated to Israel in the plan. The plan gives Israel about 30 percent of the West Bank, including areas already controlled by Jewish settlers and parts of the Jordan Valley.
Palestinians immediately rejected Trump’s plan since it essentially formalizes apartheid rule. Netanyahu never pulled the trigger on unilateral annexation due to the backlash it would have caused, but the approval of new settlements shows Israel is still ultimately pursuing it.
Peace Now, an Israeli NGO, denounced the settlement approval. “Netanyahu is moving ahead at full steam toward solidifying the de facto annexation of the West Bank,” the organization said in a statement.
Settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law and were considered illegal by the US until the Trump administration reversed the decades-old policy in 2019.
Despite the eight-month settlement freeze and the coronavirus pandemic, Israel demolished a record number of Palestinian homes and businesses in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this year.