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Report: Israeli authorities move forward plan for new illegal West Bank settlement

May 28, 2017 10:30 P.M. (Updated: May 29, 2017 11:28 A.M.)
A map showing the location of the illegal Israeli settlement of Shilo, next to which a new settlement is being planned.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities have greenlit the construction of a new illegal settlement on occupied Palestinian lands, Israeli media reported on Sunday, advancing plans for the first settlement to officially be created by the Israeli government in decades as compensation for residents of the illegal settlement outpost of Amona.

According to news outlet Ynet, the Israeli Civil Administration approved jurisdiction for an area designated for the construction of a new settlement promised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Amona settlers, after their outpost was evacuated by Israeli authorities in February due to it being built illegally on private Palestinian lands.

However, the settlement, which will be located in the central occupied West Bank and has been referred to as both Amichai and Emek Shilo, still requires the approval of Israel’s military central command before construction can proceed, Ynet reported, adding that the next step of would then be the establishment of a full construction plan.

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 Regularization law, which would pave the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of Israeli settler outposts.

While the Israeli government has carried out demolitions of Israeli outposts in the past, most notably the demolition of Amona earlier this year, it has at the same time fast-tracked the expansion of official Israeli settlements throughout the Palestinian territory.

"It is still too early to be happy.” Ynet quoted Amona leader Avichai Boaron as saying on Sunday. “Only a GOC Central Command injunction for the establishment of a temporary residential site can take us out of our desperation.”

Boaron added that Amona settlers had still not heard back from the army central command weeks after having requested approval for the settlement construction plan.

Boaron threatened Netanyahu if he did not uphold his promise to the settlers. “If he does not do so, we will have no choice but to unilaterally uphold the agreement and go up to the land on our own,” The Times of Israel quoted him as saying.

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.”

Peace Now meanwhile accused the Israeli government in April of attempting to “fool the international community” by developing a policy of restraint around Israeli settlement construction in name only, while actually contributing to the unfettered expansion of illegal settlements, which has been consistently condemned and deemed illegal by the international community.

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, with recent announcements of settlement expansion provoking condemnation from the international community.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem argued in a report in December that settlers acted as “envoys” of Israel in pushing land grabs in the occupied Palestinian territory, allowing the government to officially detach themselves from the settlers’ violent and illegal actions, while avoiding or blocking any legal penalties that could be imposed on the settlers, except in the most extreme of cases.

"The state helps settlers operate as a mechanism for dispossession in Palestinian space -- settlers serving as a means purportedly not under state control, and settlers also use serious violence against Palestinian residents,” the group explained.

Many have linked the increase in Israeli settlement expansion plans in 2017 to the election of US President Donald Trump, who is widely seen as a stalwart ally of the Israeli government, despite Israeli authorities reported postponing decisions regarding settlements to after Trump’s visit to Israel on Monday, the Times of Israel said.
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