The Palestinians and the United Nations on Friday condemned the Israeli cabinet approval for building the first officially sanctioned new settlement in the West Bank in more than 20 years.
The security cabinet gave its unanimous backing to the new settlement late on Thursday for the evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost, which was razed by court order last month.
PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat said in a statement on Friday that the Palestinians will “hold Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist government fully responsible for the consequences of such violations.”
“We send a clear message to the US administration, the United Nations and to the European Union: Peace is not going to be achieved by tolerating such crimes,” he added.
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said the move showed the government was pushing ahead with “their systematic policies of settler colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, showing a total and blatant disregard for Palestinian human rights.”
“Israel is more committed to appeasing its illegal settler population than to abiding by the requirements for stability and a just peace,” she said.
A spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed “disappointment and alarm” at the announcement.
“The secretary general has consistently stressed that there is no Plan B for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace and security. He condemns all unilateral actions that, like the present one, threaten peace and undermine the two-state solution,” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
The new settlement will be constructed near the settlement of Shilo.
It will be the first entirely new settlement that an Israeli government has approved in more than 20 years.
The anti-settlement NGO Peace Now said the announcement of the new settlement showed that the government was leading Israelis and Palestinians toward “apartheid.”
Peace Now said its location deep in the West Bank was “strategic for the fragmentation of the West Bank,” which Palestinians see as the bulk of their future state.
“Netanyahu is held captive by the settlers, and chooses his political survival over the interest of the state of Israel,” the NGO said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been in discussions with the Trump administration on how to move ahead with further settlement construction.
US President Donald Trump has pledged unstinting support for Israel but last month at a joint press conference in Washington also urged Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit” while his administration looked for ways to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks.
Netanyahu had previously pledged to build a new settlement for the Amona residents evicted in February.
“I promised to create a new community and we are going to respect that commitment and create it today,” he said ahead of Thursday’s security cabinet meeting.
Also Thursday, the cabinet announced the approval of tenders for some 2,000 new settlement homes — housing units whose planned construction was first announced in January.
A White House official had said after the announcement that talks between Jerusalem and the US on limiting settlement construction were ongoing, and had hinted that Israel had agreed to some sort of slowdown that takes Trump’s “concerns into consideration.”
He indicated that the Amona decision may have remained outside those discussions.
“With regards to the new settlement for Amona residents, we would note that the Israeli prime minister made a commitment to the Amona settlers prior to President Trump laying out his expectations, and has consistently indicated that he intended to move forward with this plan,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Overnight Thursday-Friday, the Prime Minister’s Office said it would curb construction in West Bank settlements as a goodwill gesture to Trump. It said any future construction would be limited to existing settlement boundaries or adjacent to them. However, if legal, security or topographical limitations do not allow adherence to those guidelines, new homes will be built outside the current settlement boundaries but as close as possible to them.