The Israeli government has allowed settlements in the West Bank to continue to grow. Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered the construction of 800 new homes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
This announcement comes at a delicate time, nine days before Joe Biden becomes the new president of the United States. Biden is known to be an opponent of the Israeli settlement policy, and has previously clashed with Netanyahu as Vice President.
Settlements are illegal under international law, but under President Trump, the United States no longer sees it this way.
A race against time
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused Israel of “a race against time.” According to a spokesperson, Israel would like to do business quickly before Trump leaves the White House. Palestinian leaders condemn the settlements because they see the West Bank as an essential part of a future independent state.
Inside Israel, there is criticism of the announcement and timing of construction plans. Opposition leader Yair Lapid talks about an irresponsible move. “Biden is not in office yet and the government is already leading us towards an unnecessary confrontation,” he wrote on Twitter.
According to Lapid, this is an electoral ploy by Netanyahu. New elections are scheduled in Israel in March.
Despite the criticism, Netanyahu’s announcement was not surprising. Israel has built settlements in the West Bank for decades. In October, the government approved construction of 5,000 new homes in the area.
Today, Netanyahu mentioned in explaining ten different settlements where the new homes will be built. He categorically referred to the village of an Israeli woman who was killed near her settlement last month. A Palestinian is suspected of carrying out the attack.
Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967 during a war with its Arab neighbors. More than 600,000 Israelis live in the more than 100 settlements in the area, including East Jerusalem.
On this map you can see where they are: