The Israeli government is reportedly set to approve a budget of 55 million shekels (more than $15,300,000) on Sunday for the construction of the illegal Amihai settlement – Israel’s first new official settlement to be established in the occupied West Bank in 25 years – in order to house settlers from the Amona outpost, which was demolished by order of the Israeli Supreme Court in February.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the construction of the settlement, which has not yet received full approval and still has legal cases pending against it, would house the 40 families that were evicted from Amona earlier this year. The families have since lived in the Ofra field school in another illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank.
The Jerusalem Post reported that an additional five million shekels ($1,398,143) will also be allocated to temporarily house the former Amona residents until the settlement is built.
There are some 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory, all considered illegal under international law.
While Israeli outposts are considered illegal even under Israeli domestic law, earlier this year, Israel passed the outpost Regularisation law, which paves the way for the retroactive legalisation of dozens of Israeli settler outposts.
Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law. The international community has consistently said that their presence on occupied Palestinian territory was a major impediment to peace in the region.
Palestinians from the nearby Jalud village who claim they own the land where the settlement is being built, have filed a case with Israel’s Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria (West Bank), while Israeli rights group Yesh Din has petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court against the decision.
Israeli authorities broke ground on the construction of the settlement in June. However, the construction was later frozen owing to a lack of funds.
According to Israeli watchdog Peace Now, Amihai’s construction is aimed at expanding the already-established Shilo settlement towards the Jordan Valley. The adjacent Shvut Rachel East settlement was also approved in Feb., but the Israeli government has considered it a “neighborhood of Shilo” instead of an official settlement.
The Amihai settlement, Peace Now reported, would be located near Shvut Rachel East on adjacent hilltops. “Under the disguise of ‘compensation’ to the Amona settlers, two new settlements, located one next to the other, are now in the making,” the group said back in May.
“The new settlements are located between Shilo and Shvut Rachel (located to their west) and several illegal outposts: Achiya, Esh Kodesh, Kida, and Adei Ad,” Peace Now noted.
“Hence, the two new settlements are located in a region that serves as focal point of settler land takeover and settler violence, preventing Palestinians from reaching their lands,” the group added.
Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi slammed the Israeli plan for the new settlement in March, saying that it “once again proves that Israel is more committed to appeasing its illegal settler population than to abiding by the requirements for stability and a just peace.