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Israeli minister proposes building 67,000 illegal settlement units in West Bank

June 7, 2017 5:29 P.M. (Updated: June 8, 2017 2:29 P.M.)
A Bedouin camp near the illegal Maale Adumim settlement in the occupied West Bank. (AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- An Israeli minister presented a plan to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, on Tuesday, advocating for 67,000 additional illegal settlement housing units to be built in the occupied West Bank to deal with soaring real estate prices in Tel Aviv.

The plan was proposed by Israeli Minister of Housing and Construction Yoav Galant, according to Israeli media outlet Ynet, as a strategy to tackle the real estate crisis in Tel Aviv, as many Israelis can no longer afford the city’s steep real estate prices.

As a solution, Galon proposed building 67,000 more apartment units in the occupied West Bank, in contravention of international law, and despite routine condemnation for Israel’s settlement activities by the international community.

Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted a report by Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth outlining Israeli plans to build the units -- saying, however, that the proposal was instead made to solve the housing crisis in Israel’s illegal Gush Dan settlement bloc in the Palestinian territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to “protect the settlement enterprise” in a speech given during a ceremony on Tuesday held to commemorate the 50th year of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory.

"No one will be uprooted from their home, I'm doing everything to protect the settlement enterprise," Netanyahu reportedly said, reassuring his extremist settler support base that the settlements would continue in “all parts of Judea and Samaria (West Bank)” and that Israel had continued to build “both inside and outside the settlements."

Netanyahu’s statements contradict Israel’s so-called policy of “restraint,” which was reportedly implemented following pressure from US President Donald Trump in April and would limit construction to a settlement's already "built up area." However, Israel has also advanced other plans in recent weeks that clearly defy such a stance.

Ynet reported that the Yesha Council, an organization of municipal councils from all of the illegal settlements in the West Bank, hired a “panel of experts” to map out the “vacant land” that would be used to build the units, specifically in the area between the illegal Israeli settlement of Karnei Shomron and the Ariel settlement, and up until Israel’s Modin settlement.

According to Ynet, the panel decided that the western area of the West Bank “could immediately accommodate” the construction of the units, adding that the plan could provide housing for at least 340,000 Israelis.

The plan has been proposed amid rising concerns of Israel’s other plans to advance some 2,500 illegal settlement housing units across the West Bank, including building units in in Amichai, Israel’s first new official settlement in more than two decades.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in settlements across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law.

The estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law. Meanwhile, although Israeli settler outposts -- unapproved by the Israeli government -- are even considered illegal under Israeli 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.
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