ISRAEL HAS announced plans to build 851 new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, sparking an angry response from the Palestinians and the international community.
The decision was an attempt to placate settlers and right-wing coalition partners after the government was forced to accept a high court ruling forcing 30 families to leave homes built illegally on private Palestinian land in the Ulpana neighbourhood of the Beit El settlement north of Jerusalem.
The government easily defeated a right-wing bill that would have overruled the high court decision and retroactively legalised settler homes built on private Palestinian land. A couple of right-wing ministers who had threatened to vote in favour, despite the threat by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to dismiss them, backed down at the last minute.
Three hundred and fifty of the new homes will be built at Beit El. Other construction will take place at the large settlements of Ariel near Nablus, Ma’ale Adumim near Jerusalem and in the Etzion bloc south of Bethlehem.
Mr Netanyahu told the settlers he felt their pain but the government had no choice but to implement the high court ruling. He said the settlers had no greater friend than the current government. “Instead of shrinking Beit El, Beit El will be expanded,” he said.
The Palestinian Authority condemned the decision. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, accused Israel of…