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Israel to build new settlement in occupied West Bank

Israel plans to establish a new settlement after vastly expanding existing settlements [AFP]

Date of publication: 2 February, 2017

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Israel would establish an entirely new settlement in the occupied West Bank, the first since 1999, a statement by the prime minister's office said Wednesday.

Israel on Wednesday announced it would establish a new settlement in the occupied West Bank, the first since 1999, to rehouse settlers evicted from the Amona outpost built on private Palestinian land.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said he had ordered the formation of a committee to locate a site where the settlers could be relocated.

"As promised a month and a half ago to the settlers, (Netanyahu) has set up a committee that will promote the establishment of a new settlement... It will begin work immediately to locate a spot and to establish the settlement," a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

The move signifies that Netanyahu’s right-wing government is greatly emboldened to start building new settlements on occupied Palestinian territories, after having accelerated the expansion of existing settlements in recent months.

Since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump on 20 January, Israel has announced the construction of over 6,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The latest announcement came on Tuesday when the government said it approved the construction of 3,000 settlement homes in the West Bank.

Trump has signaled that he would be more accommodating of Israel’s settlement activities than former president Barack Obama, whose administration criticised settlements as an obstacle to the peace process with Palestinians.

Israel’s far-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday vowed the annexation of the entire West Bank, as authorities worked on evacuating the illegal Amona outpost.

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Bennett – who is also the leader of the pro-settlement Jewish Home Party – called the evicted settlers "heroes" and promised to "build a new settlements" during a Knesset speech on Wednesday.

Bennett said he is confident a bill that would legalise scores of other Israeli settlement outposts will pass next week.

"From the ruins of Amona we will build a new settlement," Bennett said.

"From its wreckage we will erect kindergartens all over Judea and Samaria. From the legal defeat, we will establish a new legal regime that will regulate all of the settlements, and from this loss we will start applying the sovereignty of the State of Israel all over Judea and Samaria."

Judea and Samaria is the term far-right Israeli politicians use for the West Bank.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, on Wednesday slammed Israel’s continued settlement expansion, which she noted is "illegal under international law".

“The European Union is strongly opposed to this policy and deeply regrets that Israel is proceeding with this, despite the continuous serious international concern and objections, which have been constantly raised at all levels,” she said.

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The international community views them as a major obstacle to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.

More than a half million Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli rights group B'Tselem.

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