Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced the creation of a new settlement community located in the West Bank. Netanyahu also approved the construction of an additional 2,000 new homes in existing settlements.
According to the Washington Post, 125 settlements and 100 outposts located in the West Bank hold a combined population of approximately 400,000 Jewish settlers. Although the recently approved settlement is the first in 25 years, Israel has continued to grow their settlement population by expanding already established outposts.
Palestinians and the US government have historically been opposed to Jewish Settlements, as they are seen as a threat to a potential peace deal. The international community also views the settlements to be in violation of international law.
With that said, this latest additional settlement will be home to the former residents of Amona, an outpost that was recently evacuated under a court order earlier this year. Netanyahu approved the construction of the new settlement, despite President Donald Trump’s public request for Israel to “hold back on settlements for a little bit.” The move also comes after UN Resolution 2334 was passed in 2016, which condemned the existence and legality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
A spokesman for the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres stated that the Secretary “condemns all unilateral actions that, like the present one, threaten peace and undermine the two-state solution.”
This latest decision by Israel is in clear violation of international law and is not conducive to a long-term solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, The Economist reports that Netanyahu also told his cabinet that future building will only be done within the boundaries of existing settlements. Netanyahu’s defense is that he is only fulfilling a promise made to the Amona settlers who were evicted from their homes. It is expected that the new settlement in the West Bank will be somewhat of a one-off by the Israeli government. It is likely that, in the future, they will look to grow their settler population in the West Bank by adding to existing settlements, as opposed to building new ones.
It is known that many members of Netanyahu’s Likud party welcomed the election of President Trump. According to The Economist, members thought that they would be able to easily approve new settlement deals and even annex parts of the West Bank under the Trump presidency.
However, the Trump administration has publicly criticized construction of Israeli settlements, backed down on Trump’s promise to move the US Embassy (currently based in Tel Aviv) to Jerusalem, and has privately tried to negotiate a freeze in settlement constructions in certain areas. Although it is likely that the Trump administration will be a more reliable ally to Israel than the Obama administration, commentators like Michael Kaplow maintain that “there seems to be some shell shock on the Israeli right, who were expecting President Trump to be the greatest thing to ever happen to them.”
Even two of the most championed right-wing members of the Trump administration, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, have endorsed the two-state solution and pushed for the easing of Israeli settlement construction. Kaplow has argued that Trump has turned out “to look a lot more like every single president who has been in office since President Reagan on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.”
The recent announcement of the new settlement construction in the West Bank is a negative development in the quest for a sustainable peace deal between Israel and Palestine. However, it seems as though the construction of a whole new settlement community will not become the norm as long as the Trump administration continues to pressure Netanyahu to back down on settlement construction.
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