On January 11th, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered plans for the construction of 800 new Jewish settler homes in the West Bank. According to Reuters, Netanyahu’s office announced the homes will be built in Beit El and Givat Zeev, north of Jerusalem, and in Tal Menashe, Rehelim, Shavei Shomron, Barkan and Karnei Shomron in the northern West Bank. Netanyahu has not yet declared a start date for construction. Settlements such as these have been obstacles to a two-state solution and break international law and regulations. Despite illegality of the settlements, Netanyahu intends to begin construction with the support of the Trump administration. President Joe Biden has criticized Israeli settlements that infringe upon Palestinian populations in the past and will likely condemn the new additions. The announcement for the 800 settler homes came just days before Biden’s inauguration on January 20th.
Reuters notes that Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, deems the new construction plans as an “attempt to race against time and benefit from the last days of the current U.S. administration.” It is clear that former President Trump made an attempt to squeeze in pro-Israeli policies before the transfer of power to Biden. Unlike the United States, many nations have previously denounced Israeli settlements in Palestinian occupied land. Al Jazeera reports that a joint statement with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Germany, France and Jordan demands Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities, including in (occupied) East Jerusalem.” Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi argues the new settlement plan “does not create the environment conducive to the resumption of negotiations that are the only path to a two-state solution.”
As illegal Israeli settlements continue, tensions between Israel and Palestine persist. Movement into occupied Palestinian land hinders progress to an effective resolution. The United States maintains a flawed position on the matter, as the Trump administration backs Netanyahu in his endeavours. Former President Donald Trump has given unprecedented support to Israeli settler groups, and no longer regards the settlements as violations of international law. Al Jazeera notes that since taking power in January 2017, Trump has been criticized as “racist” and “discriminatory” against Palestinian people. His actions have disregarded the livelihood of Palestinians and strayed from global peace altogether.
As one of the world’s longest running and most controversial struggles, the Israel-Palestine conflict disputes land claims over the same territory. The contemporary political dispute began in the early 1900s, although both Jews and Arab Muslims argue their claims to the area date back thousands of years. Two wars in 1948 and 1967 are crucial to today’s land dispute. The war in 1967 gave Israel control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, both territories with significant Palestinian populations. Today, the West Bank is under Israeli occupation and negligibly controlled by Palestinian Authority. Gaza is controlled by an Islamist fundamentalist party, Hamas. As the Israeli population in the West Bank climbs towards 500,000, Palestinian leaders fret over their ability to declare a future independent state there. According to an overview of the conflict on Vox, a “two-state solution” is the primary approach to promote peace. In theory, the solution would declare Palestine as an independent state in Gaza and most of the West Bank while Israel controls the remaining land. However, the “two-state solution” remains difficult in practice between the two still divided groups. An alternative route is the “one-state solution,” which would convert the land into either Israel or Palestine, but it is expected that this aggressive approach would only cause greater tensions.
The announcement of new Israeli settler homes bars advancement toward a peaceful Israeli-Palestine solution. As the land dispute continues, so does political turmoil between figures in both the Middle East and the United States. PBS reports that Netanyahu’s running-mate and Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid believes that this “irresponsible step” by Netanyahu will ignite a “battle” with the coming Biden administration. While a peaceful solution is the long term goal to end the Israel-Palestine conflict, the latest decision for construction plans is a step backward from resolution.