Jerusalem: Israel’s new government is set to grant its first major approval of West Bank settlement construction, but will also include a rare authorization of construction for Palestinian areas as well in the upcoming announcement, according to an Israeli security official.
The mixed messages appear to be aimed at bolstering the Palestinian Authority while also trying to blunt international opposition to Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands.
The official said that Israel next week is expected to formally authorize the construction of some 1,000 homes for Palestinians.
The bulk of those homes will be near Jenin, a city in the northern West Bank, he said. He spoke on condition of anonymity pending formal approval.
The construction is to take place in Area C, the parts of the occupied West Bank placed under full Israeli control under past peace accords. Palestinians in those areas have long said it is virtually impossible to get construction permits from Israeli authorities.
At the same time, Israel plans to authorize construction of 2,000 new settlement homes next week, the official said.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want to establish an independent state in the three areas.
The international community overwhelmingly considers Israeli settlements illegal and obstacles to peace. Israel has also come under heavy international criticism for stifling Palestinian development in Area C.
Israel’s new coalition government includes a number of hardline parties that support the settlements, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett himself is a former leader of the settlement movement.
But Israel has come under American pressure to improve conditions for the Palestinians and to shore up the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which administers semi-autonomous areas in the West Bank.
The announcement came as CIA Director William Burns was in Israel for talks with top officials. There was no immediate U.S. or Palestinian reaction.