Israel approves plans for 2,304 new settlement homes: watchdog

An Israeli settlement watchdog said on Tuesday that Israel has approved plans for 2,304 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank.

The Higher Planning Committee, a defense ministry’s body, issued the approvals in its meetings on Monday and Tuesday, said the Israeli watchdog Peace Now in a statement.

Some 88 percent of the housing units are located deep in the West Bank, in an area that would probably be needed to be evacuated in the framework of a two-state deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

“The approval of settlement plans is part of a disastrous government policy designed to prevent the possibility of peace and a two-state solution, and to annex part or all of the West Bank,” the Peace Now statement said.

Shlomo Neeman, chairman of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, a large settlement bloc that administers most of the new homes, also confirmed that the committee has approved the new plans.

In a statement, Neeman said he hopes “this development and building trend will continue in full force.”

Israeli Civil Administration, which oversees the Planning Committee, was not immediately available for comment.

During a visit to the West Bank in July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on a re-election campaign, vowed to have thousands of new settlement homes built in “the next few years,” a move sought by his right-wing electoral base.

The settlements are located in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, predominantly Palestinian territories seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem and has since continued to control it despite international criticism.

Some 600,000 Israelis now live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in heavily guarded settlements along with about 2.9 million Palestinians, according to Israeli figures.

The Palestinians wish to establish an independent state along the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital.