United Nations criticizes Israel for approving new West Bank settlement

The Israeli security cabinet today signed off on the creation of a new settlement at Emek Shilo, in the occupied West Bank, a move Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged to make to placate evacuees from the illegal outpost at Amona, which the High Court had ordered evacuated for being built illegally on privately owned Palestinian land.

Israel just signed off on new Israeli settlements in the West Bank for the first time in 25 years.

She reiterated the long-standing European Union position that "all settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under worldwide law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible".

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.

Trump, who had been widely seen in Israel as sympathetic towards settlements, appeared to surprise Netanyahu during a White House visit last month when he urged him to "hold back on settlements for a little bit". However Israel claims it has biblical, historical and political links to the land.

An official statement said the construction will take place in the Emek Shilo area near Nablus.

The president's special representative for worldwide negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, has been shuttling around the region in an effort to reboot Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Palestinian officials have condemned the move.

Israel's government approved the first West Bank settlement in two decades Thursday, creating the first serious test for U.S. President Donald Trump's new foray into Middle East peacemaking.

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

Some analysts have speculated that the move could be a one-off gesture meant to appease settlement advocates before Netanyahu acquiesces to the Trump administration's call for restraint, part of its push to revive long-stalled peace talks.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

"It's a challenge not only to the Palestinians, but also to the global community represented by the Security Council that passed a resolution only three months ago against settlement expansion".

Settlement construction was a contentious area of disagreement under the Obama administration, when the White House sided with the Palestinians and the worldwide community in condemning it as an obstacle to peace.

  • Leroy Wright