Israel’s nationalist-religious government approved the construction of 5,700 additional illegal housing units for Jewish settlers in the Occupied West Bank on Monday, despite US pressure to halt settlement expansion that Washington sees as an obstacle to peace with Palestinians, Reuters reports.
The plans for approval of the housing units in various areas of the West Bank were approved by Israel’s Supreme Planning Council. Jewish settler leadership praised the decision.
“I thank the Israeli government for the continued development of Israeli settlement,” the head of the West Bank Gush Etzion Regional Council and chairman of the Yesha Council, Shlomo Ne’man, said. “Especially in these difficult days, this is the most appropriate Zionist answer to all those who seek our help.”
Most countries deem the settlements, built on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as illegal. Their presence is one of the fundamental issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as their capital. Israeli settlers cite Jewish historic connections to the land. Peace talks that had been brokered by the United States have been frozen since 2014.
Since entering office in January, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has approved the promotion of more than 7,000 new housing units, most deep in the West Bank.
“The Israeli government is pushing us at an unprecedented pace towards the full annexation of the West Bank,” the settlement watchdog, Peace Now, said in a statement.