Illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank ensure Israel's security, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced yesterday evening at an event celebrating the Jewish New Year.
In his toast at the event, held in the settlement of Vered Yeriho which overlooks the Palestinian city of Jericho, Lieberman emphasised how settlements were increasingly necessary as Israel faces threats from missiles and cyber-attacks.
From my perspective, it's clear that the settlements in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], and those here in the area of Jericho and the Dead Sea, are the State of Israel's true defensive wall.
Lieberman used the event, attended by numerous settler leaders, as an opportunity to emphasise his commitment to construction in the occupied territories, alleging that he has done more for settlement building than anyone else over the past 17 years.
He referred to his role in granting settlers in Hebron a separate municipal authority to better cater to their needs and his approval of the construction boom witnessed since US President Donald Trump took office, which has seen the marketing of 3,500 settler units and plans to build some 8,000 more.
Lieberman, who lives in a settlement himself, also promised to complete a plan to protect all the settlements with smart fences and better access roads by November.
The speech came on the eve of a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, during which they will discuss upcoming peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Israel's refusal to stem settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories has been a major obstacle to the progression on peace treaty negotiations. The immediate cessation of all settlement activity is a core demand of the PA.
Despite Trump also advising Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "hold off on settlements for a bit", Israel has progressed faster on its construction programme.
Such refusals have prompted many commentators to observe that Israel has been bolstered by the strong Zionist stance of many of Trump's closest officials. Senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has been charged with spearheading the peace process, is a family friend of Netanyahu, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, whose daughter moved permanently to settle in Jerusalem last month, has long opposed a Palestinian state.
Israel's persistent engagement in settlement activities have been universally condemned and are illegal under international law. On 23 December 2016, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Israel to immediately and fully halt its settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.