If approved, it would be the biggest step forward in the illegal settlement program since U.S. President Joe Biden took office.
Israel will move forward with plans to build 4,000 illegal settler homes in the occupied West Bank, the interior minister said.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a staunch supporter of settlements, wrote in a tweet on Friday that the planning committee will meet next week to approve 4,000 homes, calling construction in the West Bank “essential, necessary and obvious” things”.
Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that the Civil Affairs Bureau, the military agency, will meet on Thursday to advance 1,452 units, while another 2,536 units will be approved by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Israeli settlements are fortified Jewish-only residential areas built on Palestinian land in violation of international law. Between 600,000 and 750,000 Israeli settlers live in at least 250 illegal settlements in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.
If approved, it would be the biggest progress in a settlement plan since U.S. President Joe Biden took office. The White House opposes settlement growth because it further weakens the chances of an eventual two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Biden administration has repeatedly made clear to Israel over the past week that it strongly opposes any further settlement expansion, local media quoted U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Neders on Friday as saying.
The move comes ahead of Biden’s planned visit to Israel in June.
Palestinian activist and founder of the Youth Against Settlements NGO Issa Amro told Al Jazeera that the approval of 4,000 new settler homes would mean “more violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank” and more “Policies of Restriction and Apartheid”. imposed on the Palestinians.
“This shows that Israel has violated international law with impunity and is not being held accountable, and it shows that the international community is using double standards against Israel,” Amro said.
He added that the move also made Palestinians feel “more disappointed and desperate” with the Biden administration.
Despite renewed U.S. condemnation, Israel approved the construction of 3,000 settler homes in October. However, authorities have suspended some particularly controversial projects following a backlash from the United States.
Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has continued under the leadership of the Israeli government since Israel occupied the territories in the 1967 Middle East war.
Under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, construction has accelerated over the past few years, with a notable boom under Trump’s U.S. administration, which Palestinians accuse of strong pro-Israel bias.
Settler attacks on Palestinians and their property are frequent in the West Bank, which is home to nearly 3 million Palestinians.
Palestinian leaders want the West Bank to be part of a future state and see illegal settlements as a major obstacle to any potential deal.
Earlier this year, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said Israel was committing crimes of apartheid against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
Amnesty International says Israel has pursued a policy of establishing and maintaining a “Jewish majority” since its founding in 1948. Israel also exercises total control over land and resources for the benefit of Israeli Jews, including Israelis in illegal settlements.
Additional reporting by Farah Najjar.