The Latest: Settler leader welcomes new West Bank homes
Posted: Jan 24, 2017 7:10 AMUpdated: Jan 24, 2017 9:10 AM
JERUSALEM (AP) – The Latest on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after Israel announced the construction of 2,500 new settler homes in the West Bank (all times local):
A leader of the West Bank settlement movement has welcomed Israel’s approval of 2,500 West Bank housing units.
Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council, said in a statement Tuesday he hoped the announcement “is just the beginning of a wave of new building.” He described eight years under the Obama administration as “very difficult” and said “we hope to continue building a peaceful future with the blessing of the new Trump administration.”
Revivi led a delegation of settler leaders to President Donald Trump’s inauguration last week, the first time the movement has been invited to attend a presidential inauguration.
Settlers have largely been condemned and ostracized by the international community, which considers settlements illegal. But they have been buoyed by what they expect to be a more sympathetic approach to settlements under Trump’s leadership.
The Palestinians are condemning Israel’s latest plans to build new settlement homes.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says the Israeli plans announced Tuesday deal a new blow to attempts to bring peace to the region and will promote extremism and terrorism.
Nabil Abu Rdeneh says the decision “disregards” international opposition to the settlements and is calling on the international community to take a “real and serious position” against Israel.
The Palestinians say settlements are undermining peace hopes by gobbling up the land where they hope to establish an independent state. Their position is backed by most of the world, but the new Trump administration has hinted it will be more tolerant of Israeli settlement activity.
Israel says it has approved 2,500 West Bank settlement homes.
In a statement from his office Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman says he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed on the approval “in response to housing needs.” He says the majority of the housing units will be built in settlement blocs, areas where most settlers live and which Israel wants to keep under its control under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
The election of U.S. President Donald Trump has emboldened pro-settlement lawmakers, including Lieberman and Netanyahu. Trump has indicated that he will be more sympathetic to Israeli settlement construction.
Much of the international community views settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers are warning the U.S. not to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, saying such a step could unleash new violence.
In a statement Tuesday, the Islamic militant group said a move would “open a new chapter of conflict” and “add fuel to the fire.”
Hamas is sworn to Israel’s destruction. It has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, and fought three wars with Israel since seizing control of Gaza 10 years ago.
The rival Palestinian Authority has also urged President Donald Trump not to follow through on his campaign promise to move the embassy. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as their hoped-for capital.
In southern Gaza, dozens of Palestinians demonstrated against the move. Some burned a caricature of Trump.