Israel’s governing body in the West Bank approved the construction of 466 new housing units in a slew of settlements on Wednesday.
Construction in the settlements of Elkana, Ofarim, Beit Aryeh, Givat Ze’ev and Har Gilo was approved by the Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee, which had been convened at the insistence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Army Radio reported.
Two projects involving nearly 80 units in the settlements of Nofim and Efrat were dropped.
The largest single bloc, in the settlement of Elkana, east of Tel Aviv, entails the construction of 234 housing units.
The move by the Civil Administration helped the housing units pass an intermediary hurdle on the way to breaking ground.
And 179 illegally constructed units in the West Bank settlement of Ofarim, north of Ramallah, were retroactively approved.
Just earlier this week a UN envoy rapped Israel for a “surge” in settlement construction in the two months since the diplomatic Quartet called for a halt to the construction of Jewish outposts on Palestinian land. Nickolay Mladenov’s statement was rejected by an Israeli government spokesman.
In a much-awaited report, the Quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — had urged Israel to stop building settlements and called on the Palestinians to cease incitement to violence.
But Mladenov, the UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, acknowledged that the appeal had fallen on deaf ears.
“Its recommendations continue to be ignored, including by a surge in Israeli settlement-related announcements and continuing demolitions,” Mladenov told the Security Council.
The Quartet report was to serve as the basis for reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been comatose since a US initiative collapsed in April 2014.
The international community has been expressing growing alarm regarding construction of Jewish settlements on land earmarked for a future Palestinian state, which some see as killing off prospects for a peace deal based on the two-state solution.
Since July 1, Israeli has advanced plans for over 1,000 housing units in East Jerusalem and 735 units in the West Bank, Mladenov said.