Israel OKs 1st New Settlement in 20 Years

Cheryl Sanders
April 5, 2017

Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a slowdown of settlement construction as a gesture to U.S. President Donald Trump.

He called on the worldwide community to condemn Israel's "irresponsible settlement expansionist policies" in order to implement the global resolutions and to stop all Israeli provocative unilateral steps and resume negotiations in order to reach a just and comprehensive peace that guarantees the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

"Israel is more committed to appeasing its illegal settler population than to abiding by the requirements for stability and a just peace".

Talks between Israel and the United States aimed at reaching a mutually agreeable policy on Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem have reportedly been suspended, after weeks of negotiations have failed to bring about and agreement on the issue.

The move late on Thursday - considered illegal under global law - was adopted less than a week after the United Nations criticised Israel for not taking any steps to halt settlement building on occupied Palestinian territory, as demanded by the Security Council in a resolution it passed in December.

The move, which was unanimously approved by the Security Cabinet and is waiting a final go-ahead from the wider cabinet, is meant as compensation for the settlement of Amona, which was demolished more than a month ago after Israel's Supreme Court ruled that it was built on land privately owned by Palestinian farmers.

Prime Minister Netanyahu promised a new settlement in December to the residents in return for them evacuating their homes in the Benjamin region peacefully.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution in December that demanded a halt to settlement building, after the Obama administration chose to abstain from the vote instead of vetoing the moving.

Since that meeting, US presidential envoy Jason Greenblatt has visited Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan to discuss the matter, meeting with Israel's prime minister at least three times during his stay in Jerusalem.

While the United Nations and many developed countries have condemned Israeli settlements, the US has typically walked a finer line.

Israeli political sources, however, said the new construction would actually take place within the boundaries of an existing settlement.

The official added that the decision violates global legitimacy resolutions and worldwide law, especially the UN Security Council Resolution 2334 issued in December 2016, demanding Israel to halt its illegitimate settlement activities.

"We condemn the Israeli government's decision to establish a new settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories", it said.

Netanyahu had delayed the move on the new settlement somewhat, trying to get the Trump Administration to sign off on the idea.

United States and Israeli officials completed a round of talks on settlements last week without agreement, saying the discussions were ongoing.

A USA source told Haaretz that Netanyahu discussed moving the Amona settlers in his meeting with Trump last month.

The White House pointedly avoided any specific condemnation of the announcement, although it said that further settlement activity "does not help advance peace" and that it expects Israel to show restraint moving forward.

Trump, who had been widely seen in Israel as sympathetic toward settlements, appeared to surprise Netanyahu during a White House visit last month, when he urged him to "hold back on settlements for a little bit". It is regarded as an impediment to a two-state solution in the Middle East, and Palestinians in the West Bank consider it an expansion of Israel into what they consider their future homeland.

Some 330 right-wing Israeli settlers lived in Amona, which was the largest of the outposts built in the West Bank without official authorization. The area, captured by Israel in 1967, is not sovereign Israeli territory and Palestinians there are not Israeli citizens and do not have the right to vote.

Other reports by iNewsToday