Israeli officials have approved plans for the construction of nearly one thousand new settler units in the West Bank in blatant defiance of international condemnation of Israel’s land grab and settlement expansion policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Hasan Brijiyeh, a local anti-settlement, and anti-apartheid activist told Palestine’s official Wafa news agency on Monday that the so-called Israeli ministry of construction and housing had given the green light for plans to build 980 units in Efrat settlement, located 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) south of Jerusalem al-Quds.
He added that vast areas of Palestinian agricultural land will be seized as part of the plan.
Earlier this month, Israel’s Channel 12 television network reported that Israeli minister of military affairs and alternate prime minister, Benny Gantz, was apparently seeking to approve the construction of some 5,000 new settler units, after more than six months during which such construction had been frozen.
The move is seen as a potential maneuver by Gantz to strengthen ties with settler leaders, who are currently fuming at Netanyahu, who purportedly suspended annexation plans and opted instead to normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates last month.
Israel and the UAE agreed to a US-brokered deal to normalize relations on August 13. Under the agreement, the Tel Aviv has purportedly agreed to “temporarily” suspend applying its own rule to further areas in the occupied West Bank and the strategic Jordan Valley that Netanyahu had pledged to annex.
While Emirati officials have described the normalization deal with Israel as a successful means to stave off annexation and save the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israeli leaders have lined up to reject the bluff of Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and de facto ruler of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that Israel’s annexation plans were off the table.
Netanyahu has underlined that annexation is not off the table, but has simply been delayed.
The Palestinians have vehemently censured the UAE-Israel deal, which runs counter to a long-standing Arab consensus that any normalization of ties with the Tel Aviv regime has to come in the context of the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state.
They say the UAE, as an important Arab player in the region, has stabbed fellow Palestinians in the back.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories in several resolutions.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.