US concerned about Israeli plans for 3,000 settler homes

2021-10-24 01:29:28

The US is “concerned” by the IDF’s intention to advance plans for 3,000 settler West Bank homes, including for the legalization of two outposts.

It is the first such large-scale advancement of settler housing plans by the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria since US President Joe Biden was sworn into office.

The announcement comes amid media reports that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is under extra US pressure to freeze such plans. Cabinet ministers and officials close to Bennett have denied those reports.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price was queried about the announcement at Friday’s news briefing.

“We are concerned about the announcement of a meeting next week to advance settlement units deep in the West Bank, and believe it is critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tension and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution,” said Price. “This certainly includes settlement activity, as well as retroactive legalization of settlement outposts.”

View of the Jewish settlement of Efrat and the surrounding fields, in Gush Etzion, West Bank, on December 1, 2020.  (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)

View of the Jewish settlement of Efrat and the surrounding fields, in Gush Etzion, West Bank, on December 1, 2020. (credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)

The council usually meets four times a year to advance settlement plans, but this year it has met only once, in January, to promote plans for 780 settler homes, a fraction of the amount it advanced in past years.

According to the left-wing NGO Peace Now, the Higher Planning Council pushed forward plans for 12,159 homes in 2020, and advanced plans for 8,457 settler homes in 2019.

The council had initially been set to convene in August to approve plans for 2,223 settler homes, prior to Bennett’s departure for his first meeting with Biden.

That meeting was canceled due to a strike and has only now been rescheduled, with a larger number of planned homes.

The Civil Administration has said that it intends to debate 30 projects that involve plans for 3,144 homes. Out of those, 1,800 homes will receive final approval.

This includes plans for the legalization of both the Mitzpe Danny outpost as a new neighborhood in the Ma’aleh Mishmash settlement, and the Haroeh Haivri as an educational institution, according to Peace Now. It added that its count of the plans came to 2,862, due to the double-counting of some plans.

On October 31, the council is also set to advance six projects totaling 1,303 homes for Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank, which is under IDF military and civilian control.

This includes 270 homes in Al-Ma’assara village in the Bethlehem area, 233 homes in Almasqufa in the Tulkarm area and 200 in Dkeika in the South Hebron Hills.

In addition, plans for the Jenin area will be debated regarding 160 homes in Abba a-Sharqiya, 170 homes in Khirbet Abdallah Younas and 270 in Bir Albasha.

Of all those, only the 170 homes in Abdallah will receive final approval. A plan for 50 Palestinian homes in Khirbet Zakariya in the Gush Etzion region was dropped.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.

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