Netanyahu OKs plans for 2,500 West Bank housing units

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have given the go-ahead to plans for  2,500 homes in the West Bank.

Most of the housing units will be in existing settlement blocs, Liberman said Tuesday in a statement, including the city of Ariel and Givat Zeev located outside of Jerusalem. Some of the construction will be outside of the settlement bloc areas, however.

“We are building and will continue to build,” Netanyahu said in posts on social media.

The decision comes two days after a Jerusalem municipal committee approved 566 housing units in Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem over the Green Line demarcating the pre-1967 borders. That vote had been pushed off from December, until the end of the Obama administration and the inauguration of President Donald Trump, who is perceived by Israeli leaders as more supportive of settlement construction.

On Monday, Netanyahu told his inner Security Cabinet that he would lift all restrictions on Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem, Haaretz reported, citing unnamed sources. The prime minister reportedly also said that when construction plans are approved in eastern Jerusalem, he plans also to advance construction in West Bank settlement blocs.

Liberman also said in a statement that he would request permission from the Cabinet for construction of a Palestinian industrial park northwest of Hebron.

The Yesha Council, the official representative organization for the 430,000 Israelis living in the West Bank, congratulated the government on the new building permits.

“We hope that this is just the beginning of a wave of new building across our ancestral homeland after eight years very difficult years,” wrote Oded Revivi, the council’s chief foreign envoy as well as the mayor of the West Bank city of Efrat. “Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria are the answer to peace, enabling Israelis and Palestinians to live and work together. We hope to continue building a peaceful future with the blessing of the new Trump administration.”

The Palestinian Authority condemned the announcement.

“This measure will have implications,” said Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas. “The decision to delay any attempt to restore security and stability and strengthen the extremists and terrorism.”

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