Israel Moves Ahead on West Bank Settlements

Israel is moving ahead with plans for a significant expansion of its settlements in the occupied West Bank, including apartments in the volatile city of Hebron and the first approval of a new settlement in 20 years.

But while the latest plans call for the eventual construction of thousands of new homes on the West Bank, when Israeli officials meet this week to review them, only several hundred housing units appear likely to be granted final approval.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is once again maneuvering on familiar ground, trying to balance the demands of his pro-settlement coalition partners with the opposition from the international community.

In restricting the number of final approvals now, however, his government may also be taking into account some other Israeli priorities. Among them are the campaign against Iran and the joint interests he has been pushing with Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, with which Israel has no formal diplomatic relations.

When the Israeli government announced last week that a planning committee convening on Tuesday and Wednesday would promote plans for 3,736 new housing units — which are at various stages of the long approval process — opponents of Israeli settlement in the West Bank were outraged. Critics in the pro-settlement camp were not satisfied, either, accusing Mr. Netanyahu of recycling announcements of plans that were still in their early stages of approval and engaging in political spin.

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Source: NYTimes.com