JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s prime minister on Monday instructed authorities to approve the construction of 800 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank before President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel administration stepped down.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office stated that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed Judea and Samaria to move forward with plans to build approximately 800 units of RIA,” using biblical terms for the West Bank ۔
President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn in next week, has hinted that his administration will resume US policy to oppose an extension of the settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The Trump administration has provided extraordinary U.S. aid to settler groups, highlighting a statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2019 that Washington no longer considers settlements a violation of international law. In November, Pompeo became the first senior US diplomat to visit a settlement in the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Netanyahu is facing a fourth Israeli re-election on March 23 in just two years. A series of recent elections show that the veteran prime minister faces a formidable challenge from right-wing pro-settlement candidate Jidon Sar, who last month voted against the prime minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party. He refused to fight.
According to Israeli political analysts, Netanyahu is widely expected to create a series of dramas for right-wing voters before the vote, including the promotion of his pro-settlement credentials. A statement from Netanyahu’s office said 100 of the new units were to be built in the town of Tal Manasheh, where French-Israeli Esther Horgen was killed last month.
Israel’s security services say the settler was killed by Palestinian Mohammed Kabha, who claims that his occupation was politically motivated.
Netanyahu’s order to move forward with the construction of the settlement is not final, it is a matter of eliminating possible bureaucratic steps and potential legal challenges from anti-occupation groups before any construction process can begin.
There are currently about 450,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank, with an estimated 2.8 million Palestinians. All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal by most members of the international community.