Israel advances plans for 1,500 new West Bank homes

Israeli authorities on Tuesday advanced plans for 1,500 housing units in the West Bank, including units for the first new official settlement in some 25 years, according to left-wing Peace Now which tracks settlement activity.

A Defense Ministry committee advanced the plans and may do so for about 1,000 more on Wednesday, the organization said in a statement.

The plans moved forward on Tuesday are at various stages in the process of the Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee and the units are located in different areas, including some outside the settlement blocs.

Plans for 102 units for the new settlement, to be known as Amichai, are in the early stages and require a series of further steps. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged to build a new settlement for around 40 families of a wildcat Jewish outpost in the West Bank known as Amona, which was evacuated under court order in February.

An Israeli government-sanctioned settlement would be the first official new settlement in a quarter of a century.

The move came as Israelis and Palestinians marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israeli authorities did not respond to requests for comment on the plans, which Peace Now said showed that “a two-state solution is not on [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s] agenda.”

“By promoting the establishment of the first new settlement in 25 years, as well as thousands of additional settlement units, Netanyahu’s actions speak louder than his empty words on peace,” Peace Now said.

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Construction in recent years has involved expanding existing settlements in the West Bank, with many countries warning it is gradually eating away at any chance of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

The government does not expect the building approvals to cause diplomatic trouble with Washington, having already discussed the issue with the Trump administration, an Israeli official said last week. “These are plans, some of which are old and were frozen at various stages,” he said.

The committee normally meets every few months, but its last scheduled meeting was postponed due to US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel last month.

While in the early days of the Trump administration the White House insisted that settlements were not “an impediment to peace,” during Netanyahu’s visit to Washington in February, the president told the prime minister that he’d like him to “hold back on settlements for a little bit” and said in a Hebrew newspaper interview that settlements are “not a good thing for peace.”