Tel Aviv: Israeli authorities on Wednesday approved the construction of 463 homes for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, the watchdog Peace Now said, despite growing international criticism over such projects. The approvals mostly involved new housing units, but a retroactive green light was also granted to 179 existing homes in the Ofarim settlement.
Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations coordinator for the Middle East peace process, had told the UN Security Council on Monday that Israeli settlement expansion has surged in the past two months since a key report called for a halt.
The report by the diplomatic Quartet — the European Union, Russia, the UN and the United States — said construction of settlements on land earmarked to be part of a future Palestinian state is eroding the possibility of a two-state solution.
The Palestinians see east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed, as the capital of their future state. Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its capital.
According to the UN envoy, Israel has advanced plans for more than 1,000 housing units in east Jerusalem and 735 units in the West Bank since July 1. Mr. Mladenov also said that Israel has undertaken a land survey on the outskirts of Bethlehem for the establishment of a new settlement in a move that would contribute to the “dismemberment of the southern West Bank”.
Settlements are considered illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land Palestinians see as part of their future state.