Palestine slams Israeli decision as a "betrayal" of PM Netanyahu's recent pledges to halt all illegal settlement activities during recent meetings in Jordan and Egypt.

The large illegal settlement of Efrat sits deep in the occupied West Bank, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
The large illegal settlement of Efrat sits deep in the occupied West Bank, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. (AP Archive)

The far-right government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has approved the construction of over a thousand new homes in illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, a watchdog group reported, drawing anger and condemnations from Palestine. 

The anti-settlement Israeli group Peace Now publicised the construction bids on Friday.

"This is yet another harmful and unnecessary construction initiative," the group said, accusing the Israeli government of "trampling on the possibility of a future political agreement, and on our relations with the US and friendly countries."

The report comes despite an Israeli pledge to halt illegal settlement construction as part of efforts to curb a deadly wave of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The Israel Land Authority published the tenders earlier this week for the illegal construction of 940 homes in the occupied West Bank settlements of Efrat and Beitar Ilit, as well as 89 homes in the Gilo illegal settlement, which lies over the 1967 line on the southern edge of the contested capital of Jerusalem. 

The large illegal settlement of Efrat sits deep in the West Bank, near the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

Palestine's Foreign Ministry assailed the move as a betrayal of Netanyahu's vow to freeze illegal settlement construction, showing "official disregard for American and international reactions."

The ministry criticised the tender approvals as "a blatant departure and deliberate sabotage of the understandings that were reached between the Palestinian and Israeli sides under American auspices."

Summits in Jordan and Egypt 

The new affront to the Palestinians came just a week after Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Egypt's southern resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh in an effort to calm rising tensions ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

After the meeting, Israel repeated a pledge made at a similar February summit in Aqaba, Jordan to temporarily freeze the approval of new illegal settlement units in the occupied West Bank.

Last month, the Israeli government granted approval for over 7,000 new homes in illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including in four unauthorised outposts — despite a UN Security Council statement sharply criticising Israeli settlement expansion and rising opposition from Israel’s allies, including the United States.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief journalists, described the publication of tenders this week as procedural, saying, "All of the agreements settled during the recent joint summits in Jordan and Egypt are being respected fully."

Israel's government, the most right-wing and religiously hardline in its history, has said it aims to entrench Israeli military rule in the occupied West Bank, boost illegal settlement construction and erase the differences for Israelis between life in the illegal settlements and within the country's internationally recognised borders.

Netanyahu's coalition includes ultranationalist settler leaders who live in the occupied West Bank.

The international community and the Palestinians consider settlement construction illegal or illegitimate.

Over 700,000 Israelis now live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The settlement construction bids come against heightened tensions with the Palestine and a national crisis in Israel over a government plan to overhaul the judicial system, which critics fear will move Israel toward autocracy.

Since the start of 2023, at least 86 Palestinians have been killed in by Israel troops throughout the occupied West Bank — making it the most deadly start to the year in over two decades.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies