Israel approves construction of first new settlement in more than 20 years

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet on Thursday approved the first new settlement in the occupied West Bank in two decades, despite global concern they are an obstacle to peace.

The new settlement, which will be constructed north of the Palestinian city of Ramallah, is intended for Israeli settlers evacuated from Amona, an outpost destroyed by Israeli authorities in February because it was not sanctioned. Many settlers have built outposts on West Bank land they say was not under private ownership or for which no owner had come forward with land deeds. After months of negotiations the residents agreed to leave peacefully in exchange for compensation.

The White House statement even went so far as to "welcome" what appears to be a limited Israeli commitment to take Trump's concerns about settlements into "consideration", without any guarantees to avoid similar announcements. It also said the government had approved tenders to build 2,000 new apartments from previously approved settlement projects.

Netanyahu had previously vowed to house dozens of families from Amona in a new settlement.

Trump has pledged to solve the decades-long conflict, changing long-held USA policy in support of a two-state solution when he said he would support either a two-state or a one-state solution, depending on what both sides wanted.

Some 330 right-wing Israeli settlers lived in Amona, which was the largest of the outposts built in the West Bank without official authorization.

"I promised at the outset that we would build a new community", Netanyahu told reporters.

Much of the world considers them a violation of worldwide law.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi condemned the new settlement approval and called for global intervention.

A UN-commissioned report concluded earlier this month that Israel's policies toward the Palestinians, including the settlement regime in the West Bank, amount to apartheid.

Since the 1993 peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, the number of settlements has increased more than threefold, threatening the viability of a two-state solution.

  • Leroy Wright