Israel approved about 3,000 new settler homes in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, a day after the United States issued its strongest rebuke yet of such construction. It was the biggest announcement of settlement plans during the Biden administration.
A senior Palestinian official said the decision showed that Israel’s new government, led by Naftali Bennett, was “no less extreme” than the administration of the veteran leader he replaced, Benjamin Netanyahu. An Israeli defence official said a planning forum of Israel’s liaison office with the Palestinians gave preliminary approval for plans to build 1,344 housing units and its final go-ahead for projects to construct 1,800 homes.
“This government is trying to balance between its good relations with the Biden administration and the various political constraints,” a senior Israeli official told Reuters. Sabri Saidam, deputy secretary general of the Fatah Central Committee, expressed his frustration at the Biden administration. “The Israeli government is implementing the so-called Trump plan, and the Biden administration is almost absent,” Saidom said.
The United States said on Tuesday it was “deeply concerned” about Israel’s plans to advance thousands of settlement units. It called such steps damaging to prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said it strongly opposes settlement expansion. Asked about Wednesday’s developments, a State Department spokesperson said: “As we have said, this administration is strongly opposed to the expansion of settlements.”
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