Israel is pushing ahead with plans for new homes and guestrooms in a Jordan Valley settlement, activists said Sunday, the latest of a number of controversial building projects in the West Bank.
Hagit Ofran of anti-settlement group Peace Now told AFP that the settlement of Rotem, in the sparsely populated northeastern reaches of the West Bank, would be adding 170 new homes and 84 guesthouses. She said the project had already been approved by the government and plans had now been published before going to a planning committee for final approval.
The site currently holds about 30 homes, Ofran said.
Israel has stepped up construction and planning around the West Bank in the last several weeks in response to the Palestinian Authority’s successful bid to gain nonmember state status from the United Nations in November.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the state would advance plans to build on a sensitive strip of land east of Jerusalem known as E1. According to building plans, E1 would have more than 3,000 apartments.
His statement came hours after Israelis forces forcibly evicted over 100 Palestinians from a makeshift outpost set up there Friday to protest settlement activity.
Critics say Israeli building in the area would make a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank a near-impossibility.
Netanyahu told Israel Army Radio on Sunday that it would take time to build E1, citing planning procedures. Still, he said, “we will complete the planning, and there will be construction.”
Asked why the protesters were removed from the tent city, Netanyahu said: “They have no reason to be there. I asked immediately to close the area so people would not gather there needlessly and generate friction and disrupt public order.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.