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Israel greenlights 3,000 new settler homes hours after 'Legalization bill' approved

Feb. 1, 2017 11:46 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 2, 2017 12:15 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli government gave its approval for the construction of more than 3,000 new illegal settlement homes across the occupied West Bank, just hours after the widely condemned outpost “Legalization bill” -- which would retroactively legalize dozens of illegal Israeli outposts -- passed its final committee vote in Israel’s parliament on Tuesday.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported late Tuesday evening that ultra right-wing Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to approve the construction of the housing units in existing West Bank settlements, with more than 2,000 slated for immediate construction.

"We are in a new period in which life in Judea and Samaria is back on track," Lieberman said in a statement announcing the plans, using the Israeli term for the occupied West Bank.

According to Haaretz, some of the settlements in which construction was approved were listed in Lieberman’s statement:

100 housing units in the Shilo settlement in the Nablus district;
70 housing units in the Shave Shomron settlement in the Nablus district;
700 housing units in the Alfe Menashe settlement in the Qalqiliya district;

200 housing units in the Oranit settlement in the Qalqiliya district;

100 housing units in the Qarne Shomron settlement in the Qalqiliya district;
50 housing units in the Nofim settlement in the Salfit district;

650 housing units in the Bet Arye settlement in the Ramallah district;

150 housing units in the Givat Zeev settlement in the Jerusalem district;
650 housing units in the Betar Illit settlement in the Bethlehem district;
150 housing units in the Noqedim settlement in the Bethlehem district;
80 housing units in the Kfar Eldad settlement in the Bethlehem district;
30 housing units in the Efrat settlement in the Bethlehem district;
100 housing units in the Mazadot Yehuda settlement in the Hebron district;

Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat released a statement on Tuesday describing Israel’s continued settlement expansion as an “immoral situation,” as he called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “open an immediate investigation into the Israeli settlement enterprise.”

Erekat slammed the decision, saying that “throughout the first month of 2017, Israel has pushed for the construction of more than 3,200 new settlement units,” which has led to the demolition of around 30 Palestinian homes and to the "forced displacement of close to 40 Palestinian families comprising 240 people.”

The statement highlighted that more than half of the displaced Palestinians were children, and the “close to half of all demolished properties were donor-funded.”

“The commitment of Netanyahu's government to colonization and segregation and its determination to defy international law and resolutions continues to destroy the prospects of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine,” Erekat said, adding that the Palestinian leadership “will pursue all necessary political, legal and diplomatic steps in order to hold Israel accountable and to bring justice to our people.”

Erekat implored to the international community to implement the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, saying that “Israel continues to systematically violate the rights of the Palestinian people and to give a green light and support for settlers to take over more Palestinian land and to terrorize the Palestinian population,” something that “should not be tolerated” by the international community.

Earlier Tuesday, the Knesset’s Law Committee and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved by a slim vote -- with seven in favor and six against -- the "Legalization bill," which would retroactively legalize dozens of Israeli outposts, considered illegal under both international and Israeli domestic law, built on private Palestinian land and confiscate thousands of dunams of Palestinian land.

The Times of Israel
reported on Sunday that the bill states that any settlements built in the West Bank “in good faith” without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians could be officially recognized by Israel pending “minimal” proof of governmental support in its establishment.

The news outlet added that the Israeli government would be able to appropriate land if its Palestinian owners were not identified, or offer compensation packages to the landowners -- whether by leasing the land or offering alternate plots of land.

Both opponents and supporters of the bill have said the legislation would pave the way to annexing the majority of the West Bank.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has repeatedly stated that the bill contravenes both Israeli and international law and that the Israeli Supreme Court would likely strike it down, while Israeli officials have also reportedly expressed worry that the passage of the bill could land Israel in the ICC, a move that Erekat promised to pursue in his statement on Tuesday.

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