Israel to Approve 4,000 Jewish Housing Units in West Bank Amid Bennett Threats to Leave Coalition

© AP Photo / Nasser NasserPalestinians gather by a section of Israel's separation barrier, while they wait for the Israeli army to allow them to cross the fence, in the West Bank village of Nilin, west of Ramallah, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021.
Palestinians gather by a section of Israel's separation barrier, while they wait for the Israeli army to allow them to cross the fence, in the West Bank village of Nilin, west of Ramallah, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.05.2022
In a statement on Friday, Israel’s Civil Administration said it expected to push forward plans to build nearly 4,000 new housing units for Jews in the West Bank in the coming week.
According to Haaretz, 2,436 units are expected to be approved for construction, while plans for 1,452 would be advanced. The new apartments would be in Dolev, Shvut Rahel, Betar Ilit, Negohot, and Kiryat Arba, with others being considered in Elkana, Kedumim, and Shaarei Tikva.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has demanded the approval of new residential units, dragooning the coalition government into approving them by threatening to leave the alliance, according to Axios. Bennett’s place as head of government came as part of a coalition deal reached last June by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who agreed to give Bennett the position for two years before rotating offices with him.
Tom Nides, Washington’s envoy to Israel, told Axios that pressure from the Biden administration had reduced the number of housing units to 4,000 from 5,800.
The move also comes several weeks before US President Joe Biden is expected to visit Israel. His government has had a rockier relationship with Jerusalem than when his or Bennett’s predecessors were in power, sparring not only over the revival of the Iran nuclear deal but also over new settlements in the West Bank.
The new housing is the first to be approved since October, when almost 3,000 housing units were approved in the West Bank, including the first new Jewish settlement to be built in Hebron in 17 years.
"We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm, and it damages the prospects for a two-state solution,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at the time.
FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2019 file photo, Israeli authorities demolish a Palestinian owned house in east Jerusalem - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.04.2022
Israel's Housing Policies in East Jerusalem Amount to Racial Segregation, UN Experts Say
The announcement of the new housing approval also comes amid renewed violence in Jerusalem, where Palestinians have clashed with Israeli police and civilians in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and inside Al-Aqsa mosque, where hundreds of worshipers were injured after Israeli police stormed the building last month. The violence prompted rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, to which the Israeli Defense Forces responded with airstrikes.
Israel seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967 during the Six-Day War. Religious Zionists refer to the territory as Judea and Samaria, after two kingdoms that existed there more than 2,500 years ago, and seek to annex the territory into the Israeli state - a goal Bennett shares. The United Nations has called Israel’s claim of sovereignty over the territory “unlawful” and said the Jewish settlement program there “tramples upon the fundamental precepts of humanitarian and human rights law.”
“There is today in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967 a deeply discriminatory dual legal and political system that privileges the 700,000 Israeli Jewish settlers living in the 300 illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank,” Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said in a March report to the UN Human Rights Council.
“Living in the same geographic space, but separated by walls, checkpoints, roads and an entrenched military presence, are more than 3 million Palestinians, who are without rights, living under an oppressive rule of institutional discrimination and without a path to a genuine Palestinian state that the world has long promised is their right,” Lynk said, adding that “Apartheid is not, sadly, a phenomenon confined to the history books on southern Africa.”
Lynk explained that Israel’s military governance over the West Bank aims to force acceptance of the settlements and barricades “to demographically engineer a permanent, and illegal, Israeli sovereign claim over occupied territory, while confining Palestinians in smaller and more confined reserves of disconnected land,” the Office of the High Commissioner said.
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