(JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized the construction of new housing for Jewish citizens in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
An anonymous Israeli official confirmed Netanyahu gave the green light to build nearly the 1,400 new homes, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, primarily in response to the rash of Palestinian attacks on Israelis and visiting Americans since September 2015.
Nearly 600 new units will be built inside the Maale Adumim settlements, a suburb near Jerusalem that Israel claims as indisputable territory, with another 200 homes to be built inside Jerusalem itself. The projected plan also calls for over 600 units to rise in an Arab neighbourhood in east Jerusalem.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediately criticized Israel for the impact of the new settlements on peace agreements, and urged Israel to reverse the decision.
“This raises legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions, which are compounded by continuing statements of some Israeli ministers calling for the annexation of the West Bank,” a spokesperson for Ban said.
Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi decried the initiative as evidence that Israel is bent on “destroying the viability, integrity and territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state.”
Peace Now, the Israeli organization that tracks settlement expansion, addressed both the increasing violence of Palestinians against Jews, and the potential problems with placing more housing on land Palestinians hope to claim for their state.
“There is no justification for violence, and the recent deadly attacks on Israelis must be condemned in the strongest possible terms, but settlement construction in the heart of the future of the Palestinian state is endangering both the possibility for peace and two states and the security of Israeli citizens,” the organization said in a statement.