Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that ground had been broken for the construction of the first Israeli West Bank settlement in 25 years.
The new settlement, to be known as Amichai, is to accommodate residents of the illegal Amona outpost, which was evacuated in February in line with court orders because it was built on private Palestinian land.
“Today, ground works began, as I promised, for the establishment of the new community for the residents of Amona,” the prime minister tweeted.
“After decades, I have the privilege to be the prime minister who is building a new community in Judea and Samaria.”
היום החלו העבודות בשטח, כפי שהבטחתי, להקמת היישוב החדש למתיישבי עמונה. אחרי עשרות שנים, יש לי הזכות להיות רה״מ שבונה יישוב חדש ביו״ש pic.twitter.com/sNDKlDzaCu
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) June 20, 2017
Judea and Samaria is the biblical term for the area also known as the West Bank, which was among the territories conquered by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War.
The new settlement — which will be located near the settlements of Shiloh and Eli, north of Ramallah — will be the first of its kind to be constructed since the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993.
Israel Radio said the works begun Tuesday involved laying the infrastructure for the settlement. However, the actual building plans still need several stages of planning approval.
Netanyahu is treading a fine line between US President Donald Trump’s request in February to “hold back” on settlement activity so as not to jeopardize peace moves and constant pressure from right-wing members of his party and coalition to expand settlement building and even to annex sections of the West Bank.
On Monday Netanyahu told his Likud faction meeting, “There was not and will not be a better government for settlement than our government.”
He repeated this in a tweet on Tuesday.
Naftali Bennett marked the occasion by raising a toast with settler leaders.
His party colleague, Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev, wrote, “We’re toasting the start of works on the Amichai community for the Amona evacuees. We expect speedy building to end the suffering of the residents soon.”
היום בבנימין. מרימים כוסית לכבוד תחילת עבודות היישוב עמיחי למפוני עמונה. אנו מצפים לבנייה מהירה שתסיים את סבלם של התושבים במהירות pic.twitter.com/hyaWtgT1yF
— מוטי יוגב Moti Yogev (@MotiYogev) June 20, 2017
Amona evacuees reacted cautiously to the announcement about breaking ground, saying they were “praying” for the works to progress “without interference and without stoppages.”
“The entire public expects from the prime minister not to allow any enemy element, whether leftist or judicial or bureaucratic, to stop the works,” a statement said.
“This success — the building of a new community in Judea and Samaria — cannot be allowed to turn into a failure and a farce.”
The statement reiterated that the government could not allow “the leftist organizations or any other leftist elements to determine reality once again.”