Israel has authorized the construction of three more settler outposts in the occupied West Bank despite US warnings that any such approvals can jeopardize the viability of a two-state solution with Palestinians and normalization efforts with Saudi Arabia.
The far-right cabinet of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday that the three remote outposts were Beit Hoglah, located between the city of Jericho and the Dead Sea, as well as Avigail and Asael in the south of the (Hebron) Hills.
The authorization turns the outposts into illegal settlements recognized by Israel but not the international community.
Israel’s decision to “legalize” three settler outposts in the occupied West Bank came just a day after a phone call between US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Netanyahu, during which the two discussed “deepening Israel’s integration in the region.”
A US State Department spokesperson said Washington had been “clear and consistent” that expanding settlements “undermines the geographic viability of a two-state solution and exacerbates tensions.”
“We strongly oppose the advancement of settlements… and urge Israel to refrain from this activity,” the spokesperson added.
The Israeli decision also comes at a time when the Biden administration is trying to broker a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and the occupying regime.
Biden declared on July 28 that a deal for Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize relations may be on the horizon following national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s talks with Saudi officials in Jeddah.
In order to sign a deal with Israel, Riyadh publicly asked Tel Aviv to implement the 2002 so-called Arab Peace Initiative which calls for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East al-Quds as its capital.
However, members of the far-right Israeli regime, led by Netanyahu, say they will not make any concession to the Palestinians as part of a potential deal for normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia.
More than 700,000 Israelis live in over 280 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East al-Quds.
The international community views the settlements – hundreds of which have been built across the West Bank since 1967 – as illegal under international law and the Geneva Conventions due to their construction on the occupied territories.
The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.