Israel’s government approves its first new West Bank settlement in two decades

Israel’s government has approved the building of the first new settlement in 20 years in the occupied West Bank – a move swiftly condemned as an obstacle to peace based on a two-state solution.
The move late on Thursday – considered illegal under international law – was adopted less than a week after the United Nations criticised Israel for not taking any steps to halt settlement building on occupied Palestinian territory, as demanded by the Security Council in a resolution it passed in December.
It also came as thousands of Palestinians gathered on Thursday for annual demonstrations marking Land Day, which commemorate the 1976 killing of six peacefully protesting Palestinians by Israeli forces.
The unanimous vote in favour of construction of the new settlement in an area called Emek Shilo, which was announced in an Israeli government statement, drew instant criticism by Palestinian leaders.
“Today’s announcement once again proves that Israel is more committed to appeasing its illegal settler population than to abiding by the requirements for stability and a just peace,” said Hanan Ashrawi, an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Ashrawi also said it was “ironic” that on the same day that Palestinians somberly marked the killing of six Palestinians and the wounding of more than 1,000 others that Israel’s government announced the establishment of a new illegal settlement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first promised the new settlement at Emek Shilo in February, shortly before dozens of Israeli families were evicted from another West Bank settlement called Amona. The eviction came after Israel’s Supreme Court said the houses were built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land.
Israel has approved thousands of new homes since Donald Trump was elected US president, but they all have been additions to existing settlements.
There was no immediate reaction from Trump’s administration, but the Israeli cabinet’s decision came a day after the heads of Arab League states – attending a one-day summit in Jordan – stressed their own continued backing for an independent Palestinian state, demanding a two-state solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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