Source: Associated Press
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel said Tuesday it approved plans to build 2,500 new settler homes in the West Bank, signaling a major ramp-up of construction just days after the swearing-in of U.S. President Donald Trump, whose election has emboldened the settlement movement.
Trump is widely expected to be more sympathetic to Israel’s settlement policies than the fiercely critical Obama administration. He also has vowed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem. Israel’s nationalist government has welcomed the prospective change in policy, but it also risks igniting Palestinian or even regional unrest.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed on the new construction plans “in response to housing needs.”
He said the majority of the housing units will be built in settlement “blocs,” areas where most settlers live and which Israel wants to keep under its control under any future peace deal with the Palestinians. Some 100 homes were slated for two smaller settlements. All of the projects announced Tuesday still require additional bureaucratic approvals, meaning that construction is unlikely to begin anytime soon.