from Pakistan

Netanyahu orders new Israeli settlement in West Bank

Israel’s prime minister on Monday directed authorities to approve construction of 800 new homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank days before President Donald Trump’s pro-Israel administration leaves office.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has directed that
plans be advanced for the construction of about 800 units in Judea and
Samaria,” a statement from the premier’s office said, using biblical terms
for the West Bank.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn in next week,
has indicated that his administration will restore US policy opposing
settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

Trump’s administration gave unprecedented US support to
settler groups, highlighted by a declaration from Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo in 2019 that Washington no longer viewed settlements as being in
violation of international law.

Pompeo in November also became the first top US diplomat to
visit a settlement in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the 1967
Six-Day War.

Netanyahu is facing re-election on March 23, Israel’s fourth
vote in just under two years.

A series of recent of polls indicate the veteran prime
minister is facing a strong right-wing challenge from pro-settler candidate
Gideon Saar, who defected from Netanyahu’s Likud party last month to run
against the premier.

Netanyahu is widely expected to make a series of plays for
right-wing votes, including by bolstering his pro-settlement credentials,
before the vote, according to Israeli political analysts.

The statement from Netanyahu’s office said that 100 of the
new units were to be built in the Tal Menashe settlement, where French-Israeli
Esther Horgen was murdered last month.

Israel’s security services have said the settler was
murdered by Palestinian Mohammed Cabha, claiming he had political motives for
her killing related to the occupation.

Netanyahu’s order to advance settlement construction is not
final, with the process having to clear several bureaucratic phases and
possible legal challenges from anti-occupation groups before any construction

There are currently some 450,000 Jewish settlers in the West
Bank, living amid an estimated 2.8 million Palestinians.

All Jewish settlements in the West Bank are regarded as
illegal by much of the international community.