Israel to approve 2,000 occupied West Bank settlement homes

Israel to approve 2,000 new settlement homes in occupied West Bank
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Israel plans to authorise the construction of 2,000 new settlement homes next week, the first major approval of settlement construction by the new government.
A rare authorization of construction of some 1,000 homes for Palestinians will be granted, an Israeli official said [Getty]

Israel's new government is set next week to grant its first major approval of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank, according to an Israeli security official.

The upcoming announcements will also include a rare authorisation of construction of some 1,000 homes for Palestinians, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity pending formal approval.

The mixed messages appear to be aimed at bolstering the Palestinian Authority while also trying to blunt international opposition to Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands.

The bulk of the Palestinian homes will be near the city of Jenin, he said. 

The construction is to take place in Area C, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian territory that would form part of a future Palestinian state under the so-called two-state solution.

Palestinians in those areas have long said it is virtually impossible to get construction permits from Israeli authorities.

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Israel captured the West Bank, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 war.

The international community overwhelmingly considers Israeli settlements illegal and obstacles to peace. Israel has also come under heavy international criticism for stifling Palestinian development in Area C.

Israel's new coalition government includes a number of hardline parties that support the settlements, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett himself is a former leader of the settlement movement.

But Israel has come under American pressure to improve conditions for the Palestinians and to shore up the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority, which administers semi-autonomous areas in the occupied West Bank.

The announcement came as CIA Director William Burns was in Israel for talks with top officials. There was no immediate US or Palestinian reaction.