Israel to advance plans for 1,000 Palestinian homes in West Bank Area C: official

The Defense Ministry will advance plans for some 1,000 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Thursday, as the same office was meeting to greenlight projects for some 4,400 homes in Jewish settlements.

Projects for both Palestinians and Israeli settlers will be located in Area C, where Israel maintains civilian control. Approximately 330,000 Palestinians and 450,000 Israeli settlers live in the 60 percent of the West Bank that constitutes Area C, according to figures from the UN and Israeli authorities, respectively.

The projects for Palestinians have not yet been made public, but appear to be part of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s policy of advancing housing plans for both populations in the West Bank after more than a decade during which they were only approved. dozens of permits for Palestinians compared to the nearly 25,000 homes that were built for settlers.

The last time the Defense Ministry’s Higher Planning Subcommittee met to advance plans for some 3,000 settlement homes in October, the panel subsequently green-lighted six projects totaling 1,300 homes for Palestinians in Area C, though most of these latest authorizations were for buildings that already existed.

Unlike the previous round of approvals, the Defense Ministry has not officially announced this time that it will include projects for Palestinians. Linking the projects for the two West Bank towns sparked an outcry from settler leaders last year, and right-wing members of the fragile coalition seem determined to avoid such criticism.

Nonetheless, the government has notified the Biden administration of its intention to once again greenlight plans for the Palestinians, another official familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel.

The Israeli settlement of Vered Yeriho, in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, on July 1, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Defense Ministry announced last week that it would advance plans for 3,988 Jewish settlement homes, although the agenda released ahead of the Higher Planning Subcommittee meeting showed the number was actually 4,427.

The panel was in the midst of advancing the 25 projects on Thursday in a move that is sure to draw international condemnation. The Senior Planning Subcommittee for the past five years has typically met quarterly, although there have been larger gaps between meetings during sensitive diplomatic periods. Their last meeting was in October.

While some of the projects already advanced in the first part of Thursday’s meeting are for settlements located near the Green Line, other plans scheduled to receive the green light are for settlements deep in the West Bank. These included a 56-house project in Negohot, which advanced to the earlier planning stage known as a depot, and a 534-house project in Shevut Rachel, which advanced to the final planning stage.

In addition to adding thousands of new homes, the plans retroactively legalized the outposts of Mitzpeh Dani and Oz V’gaon. The former is a wild neighborhood of the Ma’aleh Michmash settlement in the heart of the West Bank and the latter is a nature reserve and educational center that was built after the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenagers Gil-ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali. . Fraenkel in a terrorist attack in the summer of 2014.

In a celebratory tweet responding to news of Mitzpeh Dani’s approval, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked called it a “holiday for the settlement movement.”

The approvals come about a month before Joe Biden is due to make his first visit to Israel and the West Bank as president of the United States. His administration urged Jerusalem not to go ahead with the move and issued a condemning statement last week.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) and US President Joe Biden have coffee in the White House Private Presidential Dining Room on Aug. 27, 2021. (White House/Twitter)

The Biden administration on Friday criticized Israel’s plans to promote settlement housing in the West Bank, saying the move “profoundly damages the prospects for a two-state solution.”

“The Biden Administration has been clear on this from the beginning. We strongly oppose settlement expansion that exacerbates tensions and undermines trust between the parties,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter said during a phone briefing with reporters. “Israel’s program of expanding settlements profoundly damages the prospects for a two-state solution.”

The condemnation seemed more moderate than the one issued by Washington last October when the State Department called the approvals “completely inconsistent with efforts to de-escalate tensions and restore calm.”

The administration has been sympathetic to the fragility of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition, which includes right-wing parties that count settlers among their supporters.

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