Israel advances settlements with US pushback

Beirut: Israel is quietly advancing controversial settlement projects in and around Jerusalem without making major announcements that could anger the Biden administration. Critics say the latest moves, while incremental, pave the way for rapid growth once the political climate changes.

On Wednesday, as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with U.S. officials in Washington, a local planning committee in Jerusalem approved the expropriation of public land for the especially controversial Givat Hamatos settlement, which would largely cut the city off from Palestinian communities in the southern West Bank.

The same committee advanced plans for the construction of 470 homes in the existing east Jerusalem settlement of Pisgat Zeev.

Authorities have scheduled a Dec. 6 hearing for another project in east Jerusalem to build 9,000 settler homes in the Atarot area, according to Ir Amim, an Israeli rights group that closely follows developments in the city.

A military body has meanwhile scheduled two meetings in the coming weeks to discuss a planned settlement of 3,400 homes on a barren hillside outside Jerusalem known as E1. Critics say it would largely bisect the occupied West Bank, making it impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. A two-state solution is still seen internationally as the only realistic way to resolve the century-old conflict.

The fact that simultaneously all of these very controversial plans that have been longstanding international red lines have now been advancing … is very indicative that the Israeli government intends to advance and ultimately approve these plans, said Amy Cohen of Ir Amim. Jerusalem’s deputy mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum downplayed the latest developments, noting that Givat Hamatos was approved years ago.