Israel announces 3,600 new homes in occupied West Bank

Image copyright AFP Image caption Israel’s government says construction in the settlement of Maale Adumim is to accommodate the needs of its growing population

Israel’s government has announced plans to build 3,600 new homes in the occupied West Bank.

Such moves spark international condemnation, yet the US has not yet said how it will react.

The government also announced the demolition of about 35 Palestinian homes, while children are celebrating their birthdays in demonstrations.

Meanwhile, at least two Palestinians were killed in protests at the border with Israel on Monday.

Plans for the new homes, in settlements in areas deemed to be part of Israel, were announced by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.

The government said construction would accommodate the needs of its growing population and the new homes would be built on land in Maale Adumim, a major settlement, and around another settlement, Otniel.

‘Unacceptable’

Those announcements followed Sunday’s announcement that 500 new homes would be built in east Jerusalem, as well as in the Israeli settlement of Givat Hamatos, near Bethlehem, where residents had already been protesting over the lack of progress.

This is all part of “growing momentum” in the Israeli settlement enterprise, said Peter Herbst, a deputy assistant secretary of state in the department’s Near East bureau.

The latest announcements have put more pressure on the US to reverse its position, noted Tristan Brown, the director of the Middle East Project at the Washington-based Institute for International Studies.

Speaking after the Israeli announcement, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert reiterated calls for Israel to resume peace talks.

But, despite the frequent calls for a return to negotiations, the US position has often left the door open to continued settlement activity, Mr Brown said.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Up to 400,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem

“If it were not for the repeated verbal sabre-rattling, where do you think we would be at this moment?” he told BBC News.

Israel has said it needs to expand its settlements to prevent a “thousand years of Palestinian catastrophe”.

But Palestinians say the settlements are illegal and the demand for a peace settlement is the same whether or not there is a pullout from them.

The US withdrew from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in May 2015, and then resumed negotiations under the “proximity talks” process, which allowed it to avoid directly discussing the Israeli settlements issue with the Israeli government.

Leave a Comment