Israel is expected to approve over 4,500 new housing units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank over the coming weeks, with more than 1,000 homes up for final approval and plans for over 3,000 more in the pipeline.
Public broadcaster Kan reported Tuesday that most residences in the final stages of approval were in the settlements of Givat Ze’ev near Jerusalem, with over 500 units approved, and Elkana and Revava in the northern West Bank, with over 300 new homes set for new construction each. Plans for thousands more homes will be advanced in Givat Ze’ev, Ma’ale Adumim, Kiryat Arba, Beitar Illit, and at least a dozen other settlements, according to Kan, for a total of 4,570 units.
The report came a day after an Israeli official confirmed a report that the US was informed of Jerusalem’s plans to announce thousands of new settlement homes at the end of June.
The official told The Times of Israel that it was not clear whether the settlement plans would all be approved in back-to-back meetings of the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee within the Defense Ministry, as is traditionally the case, or whether the meetings would be spread out over several weeks.
According to Axios, the Biden administration was pushing Israel to hold off on the announcement or at least scale it back.
A White House National Security Council spokesperson said the US “has been clear that advancing settlements is an obstacle to peace and the achievement of a two-state solution.”
The Israeli plans come after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed plans to advance the highly controversial E1 settlement project amid US pressure.
The subsequent plan to move forward with thousands of settlement homes elsewhere appears to be an effort to placate Netanyahu’s coalition partners.
Israel notified the US of its E1 decision on Thursday, following a phone call between Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
US officials said that the Biden administration worked for weeks to have the E1 project removed from the agenda for weeks.
While the E1 project was not mentioned in either side’s readout of Thursday’s call, the State Department said Blinken raised “the need to uphold the commitments made at two regional meetings in Aqaba, Jordan and Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt to avoid measures that undermine the prospects for a two-state solution.”
The Palestinians have in recent weeks accused Israel of violating the commitments made in late February, which included a four-month freeze on holding meetings to advance new settlement homes and a six-month freeze on legalizing new outposts.
Israel argues that it technically has not done either, but it has green-lit construction in East Jerusalem and also illegally transferred a yeshiva in the northern West Bank, in what will make way for the legalization of the Homesh outpost.
The four-month moratorium on advancing plans for new settlement homes will expire at the end of June when the Defense Ministry body responsible for advancing West Bank construction is slated to reconvene.
This will be the second time that the High Planning Subcommittee will have advanced settlement homes since the establishment of the new hardline Netanyahu government on December 29. In February, it green-lit plans for 10,000 new homes — the most ever advanced in one sitting. It also advanced the legalization of nine West Bank outposts, drawing massive international uproar and a joint statement of condemnation from the UN Security Council.