The Israeli government on Thursday ordered officials to move forward with plans for another 1,800 settler homes, just hours after issuing tenders for 1,500 housing units, an official said.
“The political echelon has ordered the Civil Administration to advance 1,800 new (housing) units,” the Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to a Defense Ministry unit responsible for all West Bank planning issues.
The order relates to construction in 10 settlements across the West Bank, all of which are at different stages of the planning process.
Israeli media reports said the plans had been frozen by the government some three months ago.
The announcement came just hours after Israel’s Housing Ministry published tenders for the construction of more than 1,500 new homes, 400 of them in East Jerusalem and the rest in the West Bank.
Housing Minister Uri Ariel said after the first announcement that it was only the tip of the iceberg and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat also said he saw the building tenders as a harbinger of more Israeli moves.
“We believe this latest announcement is a clear sign that Israel is moving toward a major escalation, such as new settlement construction, the annexation of occupied territory and forcible transfer,” Erekat said. “In light of the Israeli announcement, we are carefully studying and weighing our response.”
Israel said the move was in direct response to the establishment of a new Palestinian unity government, backed by the Islamist Hamas movement which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro denounced the plan.
“It is time for the American administration to take serious steps against what the government of Israel is doing,” Nimr Hammad, an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told AFP.
The PLO pledged to appeal the Israeli measure with the UN Security Council.
“The executive committee of the PLO views this latest escalation with the utmost of seriousness,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior PLO official, said in an English-language statement.
The executive committee “will counter it by addressing both the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly as the proper way of curbing this grave violation and ensuring accountability,” she added.