Israel points tenders for two,500 new settler houses: Watchdog | Occupied West Financial institution Information

Peace Now said Prime Minister Netanyahu is announcing settler houses in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem when he faces elections in March.

Israel published tenders for 2,500 new settler houses in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem on the eve of Joe Biden’s swearing-in as US President, a watchdog said on Wednesday.

On Sunday, before the March elections, Israel approved 780 new settler houses in the West Bank, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to face a major challenge from right-wing and settlement-friendly candidate Gideon Saar.

Peace Now said the government has now launched tenders for an additional 2,112 units in the occupied West Bank and 460 in occupied East Jerusalem, the Israel-annexed eastern part of the city, which the Palestinian Authority hopes to become the capital of a future state.

The watchdog accused the government of “an insane struggle to encourage as much settlement activity as possible until the last few minutes before the change of government in Washington”.

“In this way, Netanyahu is signaling to the new president that he has no intention of giving the new chapter in US-Israel relations even a day of grace, nor has he given much thought to how our conflict with them Palestinians can be resolved plausibly, “it said in a statement.

Palestinian protesters prepare to release balloons during a protest against US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit near the Israeli settlement of Psagot in the Israeli-occupied West Bank last November [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]The spokesman for the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has condemned the decision to build new settlement units, saying that the Israeli government is racing against time to rule out the remaining possibilities of a two-state solution.

“The continuation of the Netanyahu government with its settlement policies and the theft of Palestinian land – with the support and bias of the current US administration – will not bring security and stability,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh in a statement.

All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal under international law and by much of the international community.

The Trump administration, which violated decades of US policy, declared in late 2019 that Washington no longer viewed settlements as a violation of international law.

Biden has announced that his administration will restore Washington’s pre-Trump anti-settlement policy.

But on Tuesday, his candidate for foreign ministerial office said the new administration would not undo Trump’s landmark recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“The only way to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state and to give the Palestinians a state to which they are entitled is the so-called two-state solution,” said Antony Blinken.

Election campaign

Aside from the change in Washington, DC, experts say Netanyahu also has domestic political reasons to push the settlement expansion.

The elections will intensify ahead of the March 23 elections in Israel, in which Netanyahu is expected to face a challenge from right-wing candidate Gideon Saar, a defector from the prime minister’s right-wing Likud party.

Saar, a prominent pro-settler voice, split from Likud late last year to challenge Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six Day War of 1967 and has increasingly expanded the size and number of settlements there, especially under Netanyahu’s leadership since 2009.

There are currently around 450,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank amid an estimated 2.8 million Palestinians.

In occupied East Jerusalem, around 200,000 Jewish settlers live in 12 settlements on Palestinian land.

Governments around the world see settlements largely as an obstacle to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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