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Israel advances plans to expand illegal West Bank settlements

June 6, 2017 9:57 P.M. (Updated: June 7, 2017 11:21 P.M.)
Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, though not by the Israeli government (AFP/Menahem Kahan/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel’s Civil Administration promoted plans on Tuesday for the construction of more than a thousand illegal Israeli settler housing units in the occupied West Bank, as Israeli NGO Peace Now condemned the development, saying that the Israeli government has chosen to “prevent a future two-state solution."

According to a statement released by Peace Now, 1,500 Israeli settler housing units were promoted during a meeting with the administration’s High Planning Committee, including 102 housing units in Amichai, Israel’s first new official settlement in more than two decades following the demolition of the illegal outpost of Amona in February.

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

The committee is expected to meet again on Wednesday, according to Peace Now, to continue discussing the settlement expansions, which includes advancing plans for approximately 2,500 new Israeli housing units in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Another one of the plans up for discussion will be the retroactive legalization of the illegal outpost of Kerem Rein, Peace Now said, while Israeli news outlet Haaretz had 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.

"Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of the settlements, proves yet again, that a two-state solution is not on his agenda. By promoting the establishment of the first new settlement in 25 years, as well as thousands of additional settlement units, Netanyahu's actions speak louder than his empty words on peace,” Peace Now said in the statement on Tuesday.

“On the week marking 50 years of Israeli occupation, rather than working towards conflict resolution, the Israeli government chooses to expand settlements in order to prevent a future two state solution."

In an earlier report, Peace Now pointed out that Shvut Rachel East, another illegal Israeli settlement, was approved in February, also under the pretext of compensating residents of the Amona outpost. Shvut Rachel East is located on lands of the Palestinian village of Jalud in the northern West Bank district of Nablus.

Despite the residents refusing the plan to relocate to Shvut Rachel East, the Israeli government continued with its settlement plans.

However, the settlement has been referred to as a “neighborhood of Shilo settlement,” by Israeli authorities and not an entirely new settlement, “despite being located far from any built up area of Shilo, creating a new and distant expansion to the settlement,” Peace Now said.

The Amichai settlement, Peace Now reported, would be located near Shvut Rachel East on adjacent hilltops. “Under the disguise of ‘compensation’ to the Amona settlers, two new settlements, located one next to the other, are now in the making,” the group said.

The two new settlements are aimed at expanding the Shilo settlements to the east towards the Jordan Valley, according to Peace Now.

“The new settlements are located between Shilo and Shvut Rachel (located to their west) and several illegal outposts: Achiya, Esh Kodesh, Kida, and Adei Ad.”

“Hence, the two new settlements are located in a region that serves as focal point of settler land takeover and settler violence, preventing Palestinians from reaching their lands,” the group added.

The same argument was explained in detail by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem in a December report.

The group described the ways 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,” B'Tselem explained.
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