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Israel approves 3,500 new homes in West Bank settlements as move condemned by US, EU

Construction work at the Dagan neighborhood in Jewish settlement of Efrat, in the West Bank, July 22, 2019. (Photo: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Around 3,500 new homes have been approved for construction in Judea and Samaria – also known as the West Bank – the Israeli government announced on Wednesday.

The approval of new building projects includes 2,402 new homes in Ma’ale Adumim, 694 homes in Efrat and 330 homes in Keidar, Settlements Minister Orit Strock said.

The plan to build the new homes was first announced by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, just hours after a Palestinian terrorist murdered one man and injured 11 people outside Ma’ale Adumim last month.

Smotrich said at the time that building new homes in Israel's biblical heartland was “an appropriate response” to the attack.

“The enemies try to harm and weaken us, but we will continue to build and be built up in this land,” he said.

Following the announcement, the United States immediately made it clear that it sees Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria as illegal, thereby reversing the previous administration’s ‘Pompeo Doctrine’, which did not deem settlements to be illegal. 

Settlements are “inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion. And in our judgment, this only weakens – it doesn’t strengthen – Israel’s security,” U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken said.

U.S. State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, concurred when asked to comment on the approvals of the settlement building plans.

“Settlements continue to be a barrier to peace. Settlements continue to be inconsistent with international law,” he said.

“These settlements don’t just harm the Palestinian people, but they ultimately weaken Israel’s security and weaken the prospects for a lasting agreement that would provide real peace and real security for the Israeli people.”

The U.S. was joined in its condemnation by other countries.

Germany called on Israel to withdraw the approvals, asserting that settlements are “a serious violation of international law.”

“We strongly condemn the approval of further settlement units in the West Bank,” the German Foreign Ministry stated.

The European Union also called on Israel to “reverse” the decision.

“Settlements are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace, as they threaten the two-state solution,” EU Spokesperson Peter Stano said.

“The expansion of settlements is completely inconsistent with ongoing efforts to reduce tensions, which is even more important ahead of the upcoming religious festivities of Ramadan, Pesach, and Easter,” he added.

Jordan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the new settlement expansion was “aimed at changing the existing historical and legal situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Israel’s most recent potential peace partner, also issued a strong statement.

“This is in contravention of all international resolutions, international human rights law, and the UN charter. Such acts prevent the achievement of peace and stability opportunities in the region,” the Saudi foreign ministry announced.

From the time the current government came into power in December 2022, 18,515 homes have been approved in Judea and Samaria, according to Smotrich. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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