By Arab News
By Daoud Kuttab
Israel’s decision to build thousands of new homes for settlers in the occupied West Bank has “ended the two-state solution,” according to Palestinian officials.
The stark warning comes after Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman confirmed on Thursday that he would seek final approval for 2,500 homes to be built across 30 settlements. The work is likely to be approved at a planning committee meting next week.
The timing of Lieberman’s announcement is regarded as particularly provocative by Palestinian officials, still angered by the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the killing of 60 protesters in Gaza on May 15.
In a statement published by the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the Palestinian president, said: “The continuation of the settlement policy, statements by American officials supporting settlements, and incitement by Israeli ministers have ended the two-state solution and ended the American role in the region.”
The 2,500 houses, which are illegal under international law, will be spread across the occupied West Bank, with construction work due to begin immediately after approval is granted. The new houses will include 400 dwellings in Ariel, north of Jerusalem, and 460 in Ma’ale Adumim, a city already inhabited by about 40,000 people. Lieberman also said that “in coming months” he would push for the approval of another 1,400 settler houses now in the preliminary stages of planning.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee, said the plans reveal “the real nature of Israeli colonialism, expansionism and lawlessness.”
She said: “Undoubtedly, Israel is deliberately working to enhance its extremist Jewish settler population and to superimpose greater Israel on all of historic Palestine.”
In an appeal to the International Criminal Court earlier this week, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry branded Israeli settlements “the single most dangerous threat to Palestinian lives and livelihoods.”
Ashrawi called for the legal body to “open an immediate criminal investigation into Israel’s flagrant violations of international law.”
According to a June 2017 article in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz, more than 380,000 settlers live in the West Bank, with more than 40 percent based outside official settlements. Many Palestinians regard the announcement of the new settlements as being directly linked to the recent opening of the new US embassy and the killings in Gaza.
Khalil Tufakji, director of the maps and survey department at the Arab Studies Society, a Jerusalem-based NGO, told Arab News that the houses were designed to placate demands from the Israeli rightwing to create “a single state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.”