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Report: Israel to advance plans for 2,000 new illegal settlement units in West Bank

Sept. 25, 2017 2:07 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 25, 2017 9:25 P.M.)
A bulldozer is seen next to a new housing construction site in the Israeli settlement of Har Homa (background) in east Jerusalem on March 19, 2014 (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli Civil Administration is expected to advance plans within the next few weeks for up to 2,000 new illegal settlement units in the occupied West Bank, according to Israeli news daily Haaretz.

Haaretz released the report on Sunday, citing an anonymous Israeli government official who said that the plans in question could be advanced as early as next week.

Most of the plans, Haaretz noted, “will simply be moving onto another stage of the planning process,” though a few tenders for immediate construction are also slated for approval. Haaretz added that according to the government official, if the plans are not advanced by next week, they will be right after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot holiday ends on October 11.

One of the few plans expected to receive final approval is a plan for the construction of an additional 300 settler homes in the in Beit El settlement in the central West Bank district of Ramallah. Haaretz noted that the Israeli government had promised the additional units to settler leaders more than five years ago “following the demolition of illegally built homes in the settlement.”

According to Haaretz, the Civil Administration’s Supreme Planning Committee postponed a recent meeting at the request of the US President Donald Trump’s office.

“The goal of these postponements was to make sure the committee’s meeting didn’t clash with the UN General Assembly or the various diplomatic meetings that surrounded it,” Haaretz said, noting that the committee’s agenda was supposed to be published a day before Trump met in New York with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The senior official said the White House asked the (Israeli) Prime Minister’s Office to postpone publication of the agenda so it wouldn’t sabotage the Trump-Abbas meeting, and the PMO agreed.”

The agenda, according to Haaretz, is now set to be published on Tuesday.

Last month, the Palestinian Authority (PA) ministers’ cabinet denounced COGAT, the larger Israeli defense ministry entity of which the Civil Administration is part, for its role in the half-century occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

"The Civil Administration, according to the (Oslo Accords), was supposed to be dissolved years ago in accordance with signed agreements,” the statement read, adding that despite this, Israel has proven that "this occupation-affiliated administration is...enlarging its jurisdiction and attempting to open direct channels between the administration and the Palestinian citizens and business people."

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah slammed the Civil Administration for "continuing the systemic and large-scale (Israeli) colonial occupation of the land of Palestine" and undermining the PA through illegal practices and policies.

Under the Oslo Accords, responsibility of civil matters for Palestinians was transferred from the Civil Administration to the PA in regions designated as Area A and Area B, while Area C -- comprising more than 60 percent of the West Bank -- remained under full Israeli civil and military control.

COGAT is responsible for approving or rejecting Palestinian and Israeli construction in Area C, a prerogative which has benefited illegal settlement construction in the West Bank to the detriment of Palestinian communities located in areas under full Israeli military control.

Israeli rights group B’Tselem reported that in 2016 Palestinians experienced the highest number of Israeli demolitions since the group began recording the incidents. At the same time, settlement watchdog Peace now reported that Israel’s illegal settlement construction in the West Bank increased by 34 percent in 2016, with Israeli authorities initiating construction on 1,814 new settler housing units.

Since the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis have moved into Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international law.

The estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law.

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