By Abdelraouf Arna'out
JERUSALEM (AA) – Israel approved on Wednesday the construction of thousands of new settlement units in the occupied West Bank.
The Higher Planning Council, which authorizes Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, approved a decision to build 3,144 settlement units, the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation network reported.
The move is the first by the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to approve settlement building and the first approval of settlement construction since US President Joe Biden took office earlier this year.
Last week, the Israeli government announced tenders for the building of 1,300 settler homes approved by the former government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Tuesday, the US State Department said it was “deeply concerned” by Israel’s plans to advance new settlement homes, including many deep inside the West Bank.
“We strongly oppose the expansion of settlements, which is completely inconsistent with efforts to lower tensions and to ensure calm and damages the prospects for a two-state solution,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a new conference in Washington.
The Israeli Walla news website also reported that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday protested the new settlement plans during a phone call with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Israeli and Palestinian estimates indicate that there are about 650,000 settlers in West Bank settlements, including occupied Jerusalem, living in 164 settlements and 116 outposts.
International law regards both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there illegal.
Writing by Ahmed Asmar in Ankara