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Israel Approves Massive Settlement Project Frozen For 30 Years

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Israel Approves Massive Settlement Project Frozen For 30 Years

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On July 14th, Israel’s government approved construction of 3,412 apartment units in the West Bank.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) advanced the settler E1 project ahead of meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and US President Joe Biden.

The United States, the international community and the Palestinian Authority have objected to the plan, which they argue would prevent the contiguous development of a Palestinian state and render it unviable.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pushed forward the project, which involves the construction of 3,412 apartment units in an unbuilt area of the West Bank Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, known as E1.

The E1 project was first proposed during the tenure of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, but has been largely frozen over the last 30 years.

Netanyahu allowed for the project to be deposited before the Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria in February 2020.

The left-wing NGOs Peace Now and Ir Amim filed an objection to the plan with the Civil Administration in August 2020. Both groups reported that a Civil Administration hearing date had been set for August 9th.

Peace Now appealed to the Defense Ministry to freeze the appeals process.

“The Bennett-Lapid government has glorified itself in turning a new page with the world and the citizens of Israel, but promoting the plan in E1 shows the opposite and will bring us back to the dangerous policies furthered by Netanyahu,” the NGO said.

“The defense minister can and must freeze this plan so that the Israeli interest is safeguarded and a wrong prevented,” Peace Now said.

In the week ending on July 11th, the IDF razed the home of Muntasir Shalabi, a Palestinian-American indicted for killing 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta in an attack at the Tapuah junction in May.

It did so over the direct objection of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who had asked Israel to refrain from destroying the home where Shalabi’s estranged wife lived with three of their children.

In late June, the UN accused Israel of flagrantly violating international law by expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, urging the country’s new government to halt their enlargement immediately.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland reported on the implementation of a 2016 Security Council resolution that declared settlements have “no legal validity”. The global body demanded a halt to the settlement expansion, which jeopardizes the possibility of a future Palestinian state.

Wennesland said in a briefing to the council on Guterres’ 12-page report that he was “deeply troubled” by Israel’s approval of a plan to add 540 housing units to the Har Homa settlement in East Jerusalem as well as the establishment of settlement outposts. He said that is “illegal also under Israeli law”.

“I again underscore, in no uncertain terms, that Israeli settlements constitute a flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions and international law,” the UN envoy said.

“They are a major obstacle to the achievement of a two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

“The advancement of all settlement activity must cease immediately,” Wennesland said.

Settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are regarded as illegal under international law and by much of the international community. Between 600,000 and 750,000 Israeli settlers live in more than 250 illegal settlements (130 official, 120 unofficial) in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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