Israel will authorize 1,000 new homes to be constructed in the West Bank settlement of Eli, the site of a deadly terror attack that killed four Israelis, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement Wednesday.
The decision was made in a meeting between Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich who agreed on the “immediate advancement” of planning for the homes.
“Our response to terror is to hit it hard and build in our land,” the statement said.
Nachman Mordoff and Elisha Anteman, both 17 years old, as well as 21-year-old Harel Masood and 64-year-old Ofer Fayerman, were at a hummus restaurant and an adjacent gas station on Tuesday when a pair of armed Palestinians opened fire, killing them and injuring four others. One of the terrorists was shot dead at the scene by an armed Israeli civilian, while the second fled and was killed some two hours later by special forces.
Funerals for all four were held on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It was not clear if the new homes for Eli were part of reported existing plans for thousands more homes in West Bank settlements.
Jordan’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blasting the plans to build 1,000 new homes at Eli, warning Israel against further violations of international law that risk burying the two-state solution for good.
Earlier this week the government passed a controversial resolution that gives practically all control over planning approval for construction in West Bank settlements to Smotrich, an ultranationalist advocate of settlements, and said it would green-light over 4,500 new settler homes next week.
The decision approved at Sunday morning’s cabinet meeting, which took immediate effect, also dramatically expedites and eases the process for expanding existing West Bank settlements and retroactively legalizing some illegal outposts.
According to the resolution, which is an amendment to a 1996 government decision, the numerous stages of authorization hitherto needed from the defense minister for the approval of land usage designation masterplans will be reduced to just one required signature. And, in line with a previous agreement, that approval will now come from Smotrich in his secondary role as a minister within the Defense Ministry in charge of settlement affairs.
On Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply troubled” after Israel gave Smotrich the new powers and approved the new homes in the West Bank.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland warned that Israel’s moves were liable to increase friction.
The announcements were also pilloried by the US State Department, which said Sunday that it was “deeply troubled” by settlement construction in the West Bank, which Washington branded as an “obstacle to peace.”
A majority of the 4,560 units up for approval will be located in Jewish communities located deep in the West Bank, east of the security barrier in what will further complicate efforts to create a contiguous, viable Palestinian state.
Earlier Wednesday, hundreds of settlers, including leaders of the movement and members of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, traveled to the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar, urging the government to approve a new permanent settlement there in response to the Eli attack.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.