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PA initiates 'urgent discussion' over Israel's illegal settlement construction

Feb. 1, 2017 3:52 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 2, 2017 10:04 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Authority (PA) initiated “urgent discussions” to determine its possible response to illegal Israeli settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

Palestinian presidency spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said in a statement that discussions were being launched to initiate the “necessary procedures" to challenge the spike in Israeli settlement construction since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump.

Abu Rudeineh demanded that the US administration intervene and halt Israeli settlement policies in order to salvage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

On Tuesday, 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 “Legalization bill” -- which would retroactively legalize dozens of illegal Israeli outposts -- passed its final committee vote.

The bill needs one more round of votes in the Knesset, scheduled for Monday, to pass into Israeli law.

The recent settlement approvals are one of several initiatives taken by the Israeli government since the inauguration of Trump.

Israeli officials have openly stated that they expect a Trump presidency to facilitate the dramatic expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, while consolidating right-wing demands to annex the West Bank.

Meanwhile, just three days after Trump’s inauguration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to lift all restrictions on settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem and to advance settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Two days later, the Israeli government announced plans to build 2,500 housing units in illegal settlements in the West Bank.
Palestinian presidency spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh. (File)

However, a bill which could lead to the illegally annexation the Israeli settlement bloc of Maale Adumim was postponed at Netanyahu's request, following pressure from Trump’s administration.

Maale Adumim is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli suburb of Jerusalem, despite it being located on occupied Palestinian territory in contravention of international law.

Calls to annex the massive settlement -- potentially paving the way for the annexation of the majority of the occupied West Bank -- have gained momentum among Israel’s reactionary lawmakers and ministers following the passage of a UN resolution in December condemning Israeli settlements and reaffirming their clear illegality.

Last month, it was also reported that Trump and Netanyahu were at the “beginning stages” of implementing Trump’s highly controversial campaign promise of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The embassy move would in effect amount to American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, effectively torpedoing efforts to implement a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

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.”

“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. This immoral situation shouldn't continue to be tolerated by the International community. It has to end,” the statement said.
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