Israel Continues Settlement Expansion

On February 7th, 2023 one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s allies stated that Israel would not freeze Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank. This statement came on the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to the region, wherein he pressed Israel to halt development in Palestinian zones of the West Bank, commonly referred to as Judea and Samaria in Israel. On his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories last week, Blinken reinforced U.S. calls for a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Stressing this vision of the two-state solution, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken expressed, “The United States is committed to working toward our enduring goal of ensuring that Palestinians and Israelis enjoy equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice and dignity.” He continued, stating that the U.S. “will continue to oppose anything that puts that goal further from reach, including but not limited to settlement expansion and the legalization of illegal outposts, moves towards annexation of the West Bank, disruption to the historic status quo on Jerusalem’s holy sites, demolitions and evictions and incitement and acquiescence to violence.” Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who oversees defense ministry organizations that are responsible for enforcing some regulations in the West Bank, replied, “There will be no construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, period.”

Continuing to expand settlements should not be the future for Israel. These settlement expansions are only continuing to exacerbate deep issues that have spanned decades. The U.S. and other countries should take a firmer stance on this issue, as Israel’s violations are becoming increasingly concerning for the international community. Moreover, although the issues Israel faces regarding the West Bank are not easy, continuing to develop in Palestinian territories is the antithesis of a solution. If Netanyahu’s government is truly set on continuing such overreaching expansion in the West Bank, the potential for peace-building efforts will continue to fade from the perspective of practical possibilities. Countries should continue to advocate for peaceful resolutions and refrain from remaining neutral or enabling the state of Israel’s damaging endeavors in the Palestinian territories. 

The areas where Israel is expanding settlements were captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. This is the same location where Palestinians have long aimed to establish a state, and have exercised a degree of control over since 1967. Many world powers consider Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal occupation of this land. In private talks with Netanyahu, Blinken asked Israel to stop Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and halt the demolition of Palestinian houses, stressing that the request was not expressed as a formal demand. Members of Netanyahu’s far-right coalition, however, have sought to further expand Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

With the threat of the Israeli regime further escalating the conflict in the West Bank, Israel’s efforts do not bode well for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Possibilities for future peace talks and expansion of diplomatic relations are continuing to look more and more bleak. Israel must rethink its strategy for quelling the conflict in ways that are not overreaching or illegitimate, especially when it comes to civilians.