Israel approves building of 300 new ‘illegitimate’ West Bank homes amid demolition protests

© Baz Ratner
The US has lashed out at Israel’s decision to allow “illegitimate” new settlements in the occupied West Bank. The go-ahead for 300 new homes coincided with protests against the demolition of two apartment blocks illegally built in the same area.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued final approval for the “immediate construction of 300 housing units” on site in Beit El, a Jewish settlement in the central West Bank, according to a statement issued by his office.

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Moreover, planning approval was released for the construction of another 413 homes in East Jerusalem.

The decision immediately sparked international condemnation, including criticism from Israel’s close ally, the US.

“The United States continues to view settlements as illegitimate and we strongly oppose steps to advance construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. “Settlement expansion threatens the two-state solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a negotiated resolution to the conflict.”

Interestingly, Israel announced its decision the same day as the country’s Supreme Court’s demolition order was being carried out, knocking down two vacant apartment blocks in Beit El, which were built illegally on Palestinian-owned land.

The demolition of partially constructed blocks was met with resistance from Jewish settlers. Following days of demonstrations, settlers clashed with Israeli police, which was filmed using water cannon in response.

Meanwhile, a lawmaker from the pro-settler Jewish Home party, Moti Yogev, said in an interview that the Supreme Court should be “bulldozed.”

Netanyahu has been facing pressure from ultranationalist members of his governing coalition, urging him to get behind the 300-home project and expand the settlements further.

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More than 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and around East Jerusalem, built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

The occupied territories have been seeking full statehood from Israel for decades, with Palestinians demanding full recognition as a sovereign state from the UN and the international community.