Days Into Trump Term, Israel Approves 2,500 West Bank HomesBy
Announcement comes days after Jerusalem housing plan presented
Defense minister hails return to ’normal life’ post-Obama
Israel will build 2,500 new housing units in the West Bank, the country’s prime minister and defense minister said Tuesday, beginning to unleash pent-up demand following eight years of conflict with the Obama administration over Israeli building anywhere beyond the 1967 border.
That comes days after the municipality unfroze plans for more than 500 apartments in contested areas of Jerusalem, most of them for Jewish residents. The government had shelved settlement plans in the final months of the Obama administration, preferring to wait for a more favorable reception in Washington once Donald Trump became president Jan. 20.
“We’re going back to normal life” in the West Bank, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday announcing the building plans.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, called the plan a “flagrant violation of international law.”
“It is evident that Israel is exploiting the inauguration of the new American administration to escalate its violations and the prevention of any existence of a Palestinian state,” she said in an e-mailed statement.
Speaking Tuesday at a conference in Tel Aviv, Liberman said he agrees with a Cabinet decision earlier this week to defer legislation extending Israeli law to the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim.
“Before we take dramatic strategic positions, let’s talk to the U.S.,” he said. “Let’s see what happens in that first meeting” between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Most of the units announced Tuesday are in settlement blocs close to the 1967 border that Israel expects to keep in any eventual peace agreement with the Palestinians. The plan includes about 100 apartments in the settlement of Beit El; Trump’s ambassador-designate to Israel, attorney David Friedman, is president of American Friends of Bet El Institutions.
Liberman also will seek Cabinet backing to build an industrial area for Palestinians near Hebron. The industrial zone will be among the biggest of its kind in the West Bank and will include infrastructure for warehouses and fuel storage, according to the statement.
— With assistance by Jonathan Ferziger