The Jewish News, 24 January 2017
Israel has approved 2,500 new settlement homes in the West Bank.
Defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said he and prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed on the approval “in response to housing needs”.
He said the majority of the housing units will be built in settlement blocs, areas where most settlers live and whichIsrael wants to keep under its control under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
The election of US president Donald Trump has emboldened pro-settlement politicians, including Mr Lieberman and Mr Netanyahu.
Mr Trump has indicated that he will be more sympathetic to Israeli settlement construction than his predecessor Barack Obama.
Much of the international community views the settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.
Pro-Israel, pro-peace group criticised the decision. Its director Hannah Weisfeld said: “This attempt to take advantage of the change in American administration to establish new facts on the ground is grossly irresponsible. Building thousands more homes in settlements which are illegal under international law and which directly undermine the viability of a future Palestinian state will push back the cause of peace and heighten the risk of increased violence. At a time when we should be doing everything we can to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, this move sends all the wrong signals.”