Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in 20 years, flayed

The move, which was unanimously approved by the Security Cabinet and is waiting a final go-ahead from the wider cabinet, is meant as compensation for the settlement of Amona, which was demolished more than a month ago after Israel's Supreme Court ruled that it was built on land privately owned by Palestinian farmers.

Instead, construction during that period has expanded existing settlements or taken place in unauthorized outposts like Amona.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been simultaneously negotiating with the U.S. government on reducing settlement activity. "All Israeli settlements are illegal", he said, "and we are not going to accept any formula that aims at legitimizing the presence of Israeli colonies on occupied Palestinian land".

Yusuf Mahmoud, spokesman for the Palestinian government in the West Bank, said "This is a new escalating Israeli step and it shows that the Israeli government is persistent on hindering any efforts to restore the peace process".

The settlements are considered illegal under worldwide law, though Israel disputes this.

Prime Minister Netanyahu promised a new settlement in December to the residents in return for them evacuating their homes in the Benjamin region peacefully.

Israel argues most settlements would be included within Israel as part of any future peace deal in exchange for giving Palestinians land of equal quality and quantity.

Over 600,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. "By giving in to settler pressure, Netanyahu is leading Israelis and Palestinians to a reality of one state and apartheid".

By last week, the proposed new settlement was on the agenda when Israel's ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, met with Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special representative for worldwide negotiations, The Washington Post reported.

"He condemns all unilateral actions that, like the present one, threaten peace and undermine the two-state solution", United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

A White House official was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying that talks between Israel and the US on limiting settlement construction were ongoing, but the Amona decision may have remained outside those discussions.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson condemns Israeli government's decision to found a new settlement deep in the West Bank. His visits began negotiations between Trump's team and Netanyahu's government in a bid to reach an understanding on settlement construction. The President requested in February that Israel "hold back" on settlement expansion.

The official said that settlement, at Amona, was in the pipeline during Barack Obama's administration, and refrained from criticizing the decision.

Thursday's unanimous vote in favor of the new settlement in an area Israelis call Emek Shilo came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters earlier: "I made a promise that we would establish a new settlement".

  • Zachary Reyes