Israel advanced plans for about 2,700 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, ending a two-day session that pushed forwards about 5,000 new settlements. This came as the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, overwhelmingly approved the normalization deal with the UAE, an agreement that was once rumored to include a settlement freeze.
According to The Times of Israel, plans for 4,948 settler homes were advanced by Israel’s Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee. With 2,688 homes approved for final construction and 2,260 approved for earlier stages of planning. Several hundred of the homes were already constructed and were approved retroactively.
The approvals brought the total number of settler homes advanced this year to 12,159, a record number according to the Israeli NGO Peace Now. The NGO said the number is the highest since President Trump took office in 2017, surpassing last year’s numbers by 4,000. It’s the most settlements advanced since Peace Now began recording in 2012.
The committee usually meets four times a year but did not convene for about seven months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Peace Now said the committee is expected to meet again before the year is over.
Settler leaders were unhappy with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to annex portions of the West Bank allocated to Israel in President Trump’s “Vision for Peace.” But the new settlement approvals indicate that while unilateral annexation is off the table for now, the slower, more politically viable approach will continue.
“While de jure annexation may be suspended, the de facto annexation of settlement expansion is clearly continuing,” Peace Now said. 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.