Thousands of New Israeli Housing Units Approved in Occupied Palestine
Despite international condemnation of Israeli housing settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, Israel has ramped up building construction in 2019.
Israel has approved the construction of over 2,000 Israeli housing units in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, representing a sharp increase in settlement building over 2018 numbers.
According to Peace Now, the Israeli Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration originally approved 1,623 planned units in a first phase of the settlement building plan, while 719 other units were approved for a final phase, bringing the total units to 2,342.
About 8,337 new Israeli housing units in existing Israeli settlements have been approved since the beginning of 2019. Such plans represent a 50% increase compared to the 5,618 units built in 2018.
Since U.S. President Donald Trump’s election, the average number of housing units in existing Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories has increased 50%, bringing the number of Israeli housing units during Trump’s administration to 6,899, compared with 3,635, three years ago, Peace Now revealed.
Peace Now added that among the settlements that have been approved for expansion are the Jordan Valley’s outpost of Brosh, which serves as an educational institution for hundreds of staff members and their families. Another area, called the Kerem Reim outpost will expand with 140 housing units.
Israeli Housing Expansion Under Trump
Notably, the Israeli housing unit expansion comes during the Trump administration. Since his election, President Trump has provided support to Israel by declaring occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and downplaying a two-state solution that has been long-envisioned by previous U.S. administrations.
This year, US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, hinted at what he believed to be Israel’s right to maintain a presence over some areas of the West Bank.
Previous U.S. administrations have opposed Israel’s policy of settlement building, considering it a stumbling block to Palestinian-Israeli peace, noting that such settlements hinder the realization of a two-state solution.
During campaigning for a second round of parliamentary elections, held in September of this year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised voters that he would work on placing the Israel-occupied Palestinian West Bank under Israel’s jurisdiction. This would have meant seizing more Palestinian lands. However, Netanyahu couldn’t form a coalition government after the recent election, and his opponent Benny Ganz now has an opportunity to form his own coalition government. As of now, Israel doesn’t have a prime minister although Netanyahu is still nominally the PM.
Israeli Housing Settlements
The West Bank areas are divided into three main parts: Area C, which is subject to Israel’s administrative and security control; Area B, where Israel has security control, while the Palestinian Authority maintains an administrative rule; and Area A, which is subject to exclusive Palestinian security and administrative control.
Areas designated as C constitute 61% of the 5200-square kilometer West Bank territories. Israeli settlers who live alongside indigenous Palestinian residents occupy the areas. Yet, Palestinians in these areas suffer through segregation due to Israel’s separation barrier and home demolitions under the pretext of lacking building permits, in addition to the chase and arrest of Palestinian inhabitants by Israel’s military.
Israeli housing settlement in occupied Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, are considered illegal by international players, including the United Nations (U.N.) and the European Union (E.U.). The E.U. and the U.N. have repeatedly called on Israel to stop such activities and prepare the ground for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
In 2014 the Palestinian Authority, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas unilaterally suspended peace talks with Israel after Israel refused to halt settlement construction in the West Bank. Since then, the 26-year-old peace process has stalled.
There are currently approximately 215,000 Israelis living in East Jerusalem while the settler population in Area C in the occupied West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, is about 413,000. This brings the settler population to approximately 630,000 Israeli settlers in 143 settlement locations in the West Bank (132), including East Jerusalem and 106 outposts.
During the Arab-Israeli War in June 1967, Israeli forces occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The U.N. Security Council at that time demanded an immediate withdrawal from those territories by means of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
In the 1970s Israel began building settlements in the occupied territories. Israel named the West Bank Judea and Samaria, which Israel believes to be exclusively Israeli land.