Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved the construction of over 3,800 homes in the major settlement blocs in the West Bank, but also in isolated settlements and at the Jewish settlement in Hebron.
The decision was made after an agreement was reached in principle with the Trump administration allowing Israel to approve massive construction in the disputed territories once every three or four months on average, instead of once every few weeks.
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Essentially, this agreement means the American administration is no longer making a distinction between construction in established settlement blocs—expected to remain under Israeli sovereignty in any future peace deal—and isolated settlements. Furthermore, Washington will no longer condemn Israeli construction in the disputed territories.
The Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Committee is set to meet on Tuesday of next week to approve the construction of the thousands of housing units, including 300 homes in Beit El, 206 in Tekoa, 158 in Kfar Etzion, 129 in Avnei Hefetz, 102 in Negohot in the southern Mount Hebron area, 97 in Rehelim, and 48 housing units in Ma’ale Mikhmas.
In addition, the committee is expected to approve 30 homes in the Jewish settlement in Hebron, after only four buildings were built there over the past 20 years.
“There was a long dry period during the Obama era, and we were hit with condemnations for every construction in the settlement,” a government official explained on Sunday. “After Trump came into office, Israel and the new American administration set clear criteria for construction that the Americans were not opposed to, such as canceling the distinction between settlement blocs and isolated settlements. In addition, it was made clear that the Americans no longer consider the settlements an obstacle to peace.”
Settler leaders were cautiously optimistic about Netanyahu’s announcement.
“I welcome the prime minister for his intention to approve construction in the Mount Hebron area, and we will be happy to welcome the implementation of those plans soon,” said Yochai Damri, the head of the Hebron Hills Regional Council.
A statement from the Jewish settlement in Hebron said that “The approval of construction in Hebron is both a necessary step and an elementary Zionist move in the face of the provocative and murderous conduct of the Palestinian Authority in Hebron.”
The head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan, however, came out against the prime minister’s announcement, because it does not include the construction of a new industrial area in the Samaria region and a wide scale paving of roads bypassing Palestinian towns and cities.
“The reports on construction approval prove there is no news for the settlement enterprise except for media spins and recycling. Every housing unit being announced by the Prime Minister’s Office is counted at least five times on the ground,” Dagan said.
A government official responded to Dagan, saying he is “a provocateur who loves protesting without taking into account the bigger picture. Our interest is to approve a massive number of homes in one go. Dagan could endanger the achievements of the prime minister.”
By Yuval Karni, Elisha Ben-Kimon, Ynet News