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Israel set to move forward plans for 2,500 units in illegal West Bank settlements

June 2, 2017 11:06 P.M. (Updated: June 3, 2017 4:16 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities will meet this upcoming week to approve the advancement of at least 2,500 housing units in illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank, Israeli NGO Peace Now reported on Friday.

The NGO said that the Israeli Civil Administration High Planning Committee was scheduled to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to advance 27 separate plans pertaining to housing in illegal settlements in the West Bank, which would affect some 2,500 housing units.

One of the plans will reportedly move forward the creation of 102 housing units in Amichai, the first new settlement officially created by the Israeli government in 25 years following the demolition of the illegal outpost of Amona in February.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration confirmed to Ma'an that the meetings would be held on June 6-7 to discuss the plans.

According to Peace Now, Amichai, which was greenlit in order to relocate some 40 settler families who were evacuated from Amona, will be two and a half time larger than the demolished outpost.

Another one of the plans up for discussion will be the retroactive legalization of the illegal outpost of Kerem Rein, Peace Now added, while Israeli news outlet Haaretz reported that the outpost could even possibly be expanded.

Despite outposts being 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. Meanwhile, the estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law.

Haaretz reported that the meeting will address far fewer housing unit than settler groups had initially expected, adding that while settlers had hoped that tens of thousands of homes would be approved, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had taken thousands off of the agenda for the time being.

“This is too little,” The Times of Israel quoted a settler council spokesperson as saying, as he complained of the alleged recent freeze in settlement construction in past months, after Israel approved some 6,000 new settlement housing units in the first few months of the year.

Haaretz quoted an unnamed source as saying that the projects were all at different stages of advancement, and that some of the housing units were already built and were awaiting retroactive authorization.

“The promotion of thousands of housing units in the settlements side by side to the approval of goodwill gestures to the Palestinians illustrates that the Israeli government has no good will or intention to arrive at a negotiated two-state solution,” Peace Now said in a statement, referring to a recent meeting between Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Israeli Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon in which the two reportedly discussed decreasing the number of demolitions of Palestinian homes in Area C for lacking nearly impossible to obtain Israeli construction permits.

“The promotion of a new settlement, as well as the retroactive legalization of an illegal outpost, stand in utter contradiction to Israel’s newly declared settlement policy and create major obstacles to any future agreement,” the NGO added.
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