JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s far-right government on Monday approved plans to build thousands of new homes in the occupied West Bank, a move that threatens to worsen increasingly tense relations with the United States.
The decision defied growing US criticism of Israel’s settlement policies on the occupied lands. It also raised tensions with the Palestinians at a time of escalating violence in the occupied territory.
Multiple Israeli media outlets said the Defense Ministry’s planning committee that oversees settlement construction has approved more than 5,000 new settlement homes. The units are in various stages of planning and it was not immediately clear when construction would begin. The ministry did not immediately comment.
The international community, along with the Palestinians, considers settlement construction to be illegal or illegitimate and an obstacle to peace. More than 700,000 Israelis now live in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in 1967 and sought by the Palestinians for a future state.
Israel’s government, which took office at the end of December, is dominated by religious and ultranationalist politicians with close ties to the settlement movement.
The Biden Administration has been increasingly outspoken in its criticism of Israel’s settlement policies and has repeatedly called on Israel to halt construction. Despite the criticism, the United States has taken little action against its close ally.