Israel greenlights construction of hundreds of settlement homes
Israel has given final approval for 90 new homes in Beit El settlement near Ramallah and greenlighted the construction of 346 settlement homes in the southern West Bank, officials and an NGO said Monday.
Hagit Ofran of the Peace Now settlement watchdog said the plans had been published for validation in an Israeli newspaper in what was the “final stage of approval”, meaning construction of the new homes could begin “within a few days.”
The plans were signed off by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in August but received the final rubber stamp on Sunday by the Civil Administration’s planning committee, she said.
The Beit El construction plans were hurriedly put together as a compensatory measure for settlers who were evicted last year from Ulpana, an unauthorized settlement outpost on the outskirts of Beit El which was evacuated following a High Court ruling.
A civil administration spokesman confirmed the approval for the 90 units, saying they had been signed off by the political establishment.
Ofran said it meant the bulldozers could now get to work immediately.
“They can start building within a few days,” she said.
The Yesha Council – an umbrella organization of settlement councils – said that they welcomed any development in the West Bank, the Jerusalem Post reported. The group led the 2005 movement against Israel’s disengagement plan.
On Sunday, the defense ministry confirmed it had given the green light for the construction of 346 new settler homes in two settlements in the southern West Bank: 200 housing units in Tekoa and 146 in Nokdim.
The approval was pushed through despite the fact that Israel is currently between governments following last month’s general elections, with coalition talks likely to continue for several more weeks.
“Even though there is not yet a new government in place they are still allowing settlement procedures to continue instead of putting them on hold which is a telling sign about this new government,” Ofran said.
The move comes just days after the White House announced that Obama would make his first-ever visit to Israel as president on a trip expected to take place in late March.
According to Peace Now data for 2012, at least 1,747 new settlement housing units were built in the past year, and plans were approved for the construction of 6,676 more homes.
The international community views all Israeli construction on occupied Palestinian land as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the Palestinians have refused to return to peace talks while Israel builds on land they want for a future state.