Jordan slammed Israel on Sunday, saying it “rejects and condemns” plans to build 1,355 housing units in the West Bank. Last week, the US expressed concern about Israeli plans to build 3,000 new homes in settlements, as well as the legalization of two illegal outposts.
Marketing tenders for the housing units were published on Sunday by the Israel Lands Authority and Construction and Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin. The announcement comes amid reports that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is under US pressure to freeze such plans.
The announcement includes 729 units in Ariel, 346 in Beit El, 102 in Elkana, 90 in Geva Binyamin, 57 in Emanuel, 22 in Karnei Shomron and one in Beitar Illit.
Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Haitham Abu al-Foul “warned against building new settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” according to a statement published by the Jordan News Agency (Petra).
He said the Israeli move was “a violation of international law and relevant [UN] Security Council resolutions.”
View of the Israeli settlement of Ariel, in the West Bank on July 2, 2020. Photo by Sraya Diamant/Flash90 (credit: SRAYA DIAMANT/FLASH90)
Elkin hailed the decision to market the new homes.
“As we promised, we delivered,” he said. “Strengthening and expanding Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria is a necessary and very important thing in the vision of the Zionist enterprise. After a long period of stagnation in construction in Judea and Samaria, I welcome the marketing of over 1,000 housing units. I will continue to maintain Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria.”
Labor leader Merav Michaeli and Meretz head Nitzan Horowitz complained to Bennett on Sunday that they were tired of being surprised by decisions made by Defense Minister Benny Gantz and right-wing ministers. They are angry about Gantz’s decision to designate six Palestinian NGOs as terrorist organizations, as well as the settlement construction decision.
But sources in the coalition said reports about tensions in the coalition were inflated. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said in interviews with three channels on Sunday night she had no intention of leaving the government despite her own disputes with her colleagues in the cabinet.
Meretz MK Mossi Raz expressed outrage at the announcement, stressing that “the right-wing government does not count Meretz” and is “10 degrees to the right of the previous government.”
The NGO Peace Now expressed opposition to the tenders, saying: “Again it has been proven that this is not a government of change, but a right-wing government on steroids.”
“The commitment to a political status quo turned out to be a laundering of words on the way to [former prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s annexation policy,” it said. “It is unfortunate to see how while the Right is celebrating another step that promotes a binational state, supporters of the two-state [solution] within the government are silent. Labor and Meretz must wake up and demand an immediate halt to the construction frenzy in the settlements that harms the prospect of a future political solution.”
The 346 units in Beit El were approved by the former government, but it ran into difficulties due to the planned apartments being on territory belonging to the Binyamin Regional Brigade. Beit El Council head Shai Alon worked with the relevant parties in the Prime Minister’s Office and the Construction and Housing Ministry to obtain approval for the tenders on Sunday.
“This is a holiday for Beit El,” Alon said. “We have now taken the critical step to evacuate the IDF and bring the cranes to start work. Together with extensive commercial areas to be built, we will soon be able to see in Beit El images we have not known on the way to becoming a mother city in Israel and the capital of Binyamin.”
The announcement of the tenders comes less than a week after reports that the Supreme Planning Council of the Civil Administration was planning to approve the planning and construction of about 3,100 new housing units in West Bank settlements and about 1,300 housing units in Palestinian villages in Area C.
“The Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories, including settlement construction or expansion or confiscation of property or the displacement of Palestinians, is an illegal policy that undermines efforts to establish calm and the chances of a two-state solution that would bring about a comprehensive and just peace,” the Jordanian spokesman said.
In a related development, Palestinian leaders were expected to hold an emergency meeting in Ramallah later on Sunday to discuss the policies of the “extremist right-wing government in Israel,” senior PLO official Ahmad Majdalani said.
The Palestinian leaders will discuss the possibility of revoking PLO recognition of Israel in light of its ongoing efforts to “bury the two-state solution,” he told the PA’s Voice of Palestine radio station.
PLO and Fatah officials have in the past threatened to withdraw PLO recognition of Israel to protest the policies and decisions of Israel and the administration of former US president Donald Trump.
In 1993, the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist in peace. The announcement was included in a letter sent by former PLO leader Yasser Arafat to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
In 2018, the PLO Central Council recommended that the Palestinian leadership suspend its recognition of Israel and halt security coordination with the IDF in the West Bank until the Israeli government recognized a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital.
The plan to build new housing units in the settlements “puts the world, especially the US, in front of great responsibilities to confront and challenge the fait accompli imposed by Israel,” PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Sunday.
He called on the international community to make Israel “pay the price for its aggression against our people.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.