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Netanyahu orders govt to advance construction of 800 homes for Jewish settlers in West Bank

Netanyahu orders govt to advance construction of 800 homes for Jewish settlers in West Bank
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has issued an order advancing plans to construct hundreds of settlement homes in the West Bank. Opposition politicians warn the move risks tensions with the incoming Biden administration in the US.

"The prime minister ordered the advancement of construction of hundreds of homes in Judea and Samaria," Netanyahu's office said on Monday. The statement used the Biblical names for the occupied West Bank, adding that some 800 homes would be built in the Jewish settlements. The starting date for construction, however, is not clear.

The Civil Administration's High Planning Committee, a Defense Ministry panel, is expected to approve the construction of an initial 500 housing units in the West Bank settlements next week, according to Israeli media.

The panel is also expected to green-light a further 200 homes in Nofei Nehemia and 100 units in Tal Menashe – the hometown of Esther Horgen, an Israeli woman killed last month in a suspected terrorist attack. A Palestinian man has been arrested over her murder.

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The legalization of the new construction comes days before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, and Yesh Atid Party head Yair Lapid warned the PM that his move will likely create tensions with Washington.

"This is an irresponsible step," Lapid said. "The Biden administration has not yet taken office and the government is already leading us into an unnecessary confrontation."

While outgoing US President Donald Trump is considered supportive of West Bank settlements, Israeli media warn that his successor may adopt a "no-tolerance" policy toward them given his prior criticisms of such construction.

More than 440,000 Israelis live in the settlements among three million Palestinians, who see the policy as a growing obstacle to the creation of their own state in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Several UN resolutions on the issue have declared the Israeli settlements an illegal occupation.

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