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Lapid backs 'natural growth,' wants to 2-state option open

PA leader Abbas slams plan to approve new settlement construction

Over 2,000 new settlement units set to be advanced, drawing Ramallah’s ire; construction will take place in blocs, but also in more isolated settlements deep in West Bank

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a meeting of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, in a speech that was broadcast on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (WAFA)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a meeting of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, in a speech that was broadcast on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (WAFA)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday condemned an anticipated Israeli decision to advance some 2,200 housing units in settlements across the West Bank.

Abbas’s office argued the Israeli decision to build in the settlements contradicts the position of United States President Joe Biden, who has been critical of settlement construction.

“It contradicts the clear American position expressed by President Joe Biden during his call with President Mahmoud Abbas, in which he affirmed the American side’s rejection of settlements and unilateral measures,” Abbas’s office said in a statement.

Abbas demanded that the US and the international community “immediately and seriously work to stop this Israeli advancement,” his office said.

The Palestinian Authority opposes Israeli settlement construction, as its officials hope to see the West Bank become an integral part of a future Palestinian state. The growing network of Israeli settlements in the area could make a future Palestine next to Israel an impossibility, Palestinians argue.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told reporters during his visit to Morocco on Thursday that the new government will allow “natural growth” in both Israeli and Palestinian zones in the West Bank’s Area C, where Israel has both military and civilian control.

The entrance to the Kedumim settlement in the West Bank, on February 26, 2019 (Hillel Maeir/Flash90)

Lapid said the government will not advance any housing projects that could prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. Settlement watchdogs, however, argue that any additional Israeli expansion in the West Bank makes a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more difficult to achieve.

Much of the planned building will indeed occur in areas likely to remain in Israel in the event of a two-state solution. Hundreds of units are being planned for Givat Ze’ev, Beit El, and Alon Shvut — which all lie snugly within the so-called “settlement blocs.”

But some of the construction could lie in more tenuous territory. Some 377 units are planned in Kedumim, a settlement that lies deep in the northern West Bank, albeit west of Israel’s security fence.

Another 258 units will be advanced in Har Bracha, another settlement deep in the central West Bank, according to the Samaria Regional Council.

Abbas’s statement did not mention another pending decision by Israeli authorities to advance over 800 units in Palestinian towns in Area C. The plans largely pertain to existing units, which will be approved retroactively, rather than genuinely new construction.

Israel rarely issues permits for Palestinians to build in Area C, rejecting some 98 percent of applications between 2016 and 2018, according to the Defense Ministry.

The Israel Defense Forces regularly demolishes Palestinian homes and infrastructure in the area built without permits. Palestinians argue that they have no choice but to build illegally, as Israel does not offer them the chance to build at all.

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