Israel approves first new West Bank settlement in 20 years, flayed


The security cabinet gave its unanimous backing to the new settlement late on Thursday as what is widely seen as the most right-wing government in Israeli history presses ahead with settlement expansion in defiance of global criticism.

Earlier on Thursday, Israel's security cabinet gave the go-ahead for the building of a settlement for Jewish residents of Amona, a West Bank outpost of 40 homes that was evacuated in February.

The global community regards all Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories as illegal and a major obstacle to Middle East peace.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office released a statement on Thursday night, announcing that the new settlement will be built near the West Bank settlement of Emek Shilo and the Palestinian city of Ramallah, The Jerusalem Post reported.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, voicing concern about the latest decision to build a new settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory. "This action means that Israel is turning its back to worldwide law, turning its back to the Security Council of the United Nations and turning its back to the so-called efforts about a new peace process", said Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti.

"By giving in to settler pressure, Netanyahu is leading Israelis and Palestinians to a reality of one state and apartheid".

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Establishing a new settlement may be a way for Netanyahu to appease far-right members of his coalition government who are likely to object to any concessions to United States demands for restraints on building.

Since the January inauguration of Trump, the Tel Aviv regime has stepped up its construction of settler units on occupied Palestinian land in a blatant violation of worldwide law.

Israel says settlements along with other core issues like security should be resolved in peace talks.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters during the summit that he is waiting on the USA administration to reveal to which extent Israel is willing to curb settlement construction.

The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

However, his decision to back construction of the new outpost still came as a surprise following recent discussions with US President Donald Trump in which he agreed to "hold back" on settlement activity.

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"While the existence of settlements is not in itself an impediment to peace, further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace", a White House official said Friday.

With the new policy, the government said it would attempt to exercise some restraint in expanding the physical footprint of settlements, though it did not specify any slowdown in construction.

Agriculture minister Uri Ariel also welcomed the announcement, saying it would allow the "development of Judaea and Samaria", using a term right-wing Israelis apply to the West Bank.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry described the move as "unacceptable" and said it violated Palestinians' rights, U.N. Security Council resolutions and the will of the global community.

The settlement construction is expected to take place within the boundaries of an already existing settlement in a possible attempt to ward off backlash from the global community.

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