U.S. 'understands' Israeli decision to build new settlement in occupied West Bank


Palestinians, the United Nations, and Israeli activists lambasted the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in 25 years.

Such settlements, in territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, are deemed illegal by most of the world.

The latest settlement in Emek Shilo comes weeks after Israel's Supreme Court ordered the demolition of the Amona settler outpost because it was built on private Palestinian land.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under pressure at home to uphold his promise to the 40 families evicted from Amona to resettle them on an alternative parcel of land in the West Bank.

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution in December that demands a halt to Israeli settlement building.

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In recent years, construction had focused on expanding existing settlements, making this the first entirely new settlement that an Israeli government has approved since 1991, the anti-settlement NGO Peace Now said.

Following the cabinet's decision to restrain construction within the West Bank in accordance with agreements made with the USA government, the Yesha Council claims that they approve continued settlement construction. "Israel will build within the existing developed area, as much as possible".

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.

About 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, which is also home to 2.8 million Palestinians.

Most countries view Israeli settlement activity in these areas as illegal and an obstacle to peace.

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Presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said in a press briefing on Friday that the new settlement plan is "an impediment to the [peace] process for both sides". "This action means that Israel is turning its back to global 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.

President Donald Trump, who has publicly voiced his support for the Jewish State, asked Netanyahu to "hold back on settlements for a little bit".

Israel will also prevent the construction of any new illegal outposts, Netanyahu told his ministers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks as he visits a settlement construction site in Har Homa, east Jerusalem, Monday March 16, 2015.

Netanyahu has been in discussions with the Trump administration on how to move ahead with further construction.

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The new settlement was already on track to be approved "before the President had a chance to lay out his expectations", said the official, who declined to be named due to the sensitive nature of peace talks.