JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel on Monday authorized some 1,300 Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank days after advancing plans to build more than 3,000 housing units for Jewish settlers.
The Israeli government says it is adopting a moderate approach with the aim of minimizing friction with the U.S. — which is opposed to settlements — and tensions within its ruling coalition, which includes parties from across the political spectrum.
The Palestinians and rights groups say the newly authorized homes meet only a small fraction of the need in the 60% of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control. Military permits for Palestinian construction are rarely granted and unauthorized structures are often demolished.
An Israeli security official confirmed the approval of the Palestinian housing, saying it authorized existing homes and gave permission to build new ones, without providing a breakdown. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, and the Palestinians want it to form the main part of their future state. Today, the territory is home to more than 2.5 million Palestinians and nearly 500,000 Jewish settlers.
The Palestinians and most of the international community view the settlements as a violation of international law. The Palestinians say the continuous expansion of settlements since 1967 has made it virtually impossible to establish a viable state alongside Israel. A two-state solution is still seen internationally as the only realistic way of resolving the decades-old conflict.
Israel views the West Bank as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is a strong supporter of the settlements and is opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.
President Joe Biden's administration has expressed opposition to the expansion of settlements, saying it undermines efforts to eventually revive the peace process. Israel and the Palestinians have not held substantive negotiations in more than a decade.
Joseph Krauss, The Associated Press