Israel Approves Another 1,200 Settlement Units Around Jerusalem

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Author: Peter Beaumont

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Israel has given the green light for the fast-track development of a further 1,200 settlement units around Jerusalem. It brings the total number of new approvals to 5,500 in just over a week, the largest wave of proposed expansion in recent memory.

The latest plan, which would see almost 1,000 new apartments built over Jerusalem’s green line in Gilo, comes as the Israeli media is reporting mounting pressure on the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to drop his commitment to a two-state solution from his platform for re-election in January.

The agreement for the Gilo development is only the latest in wave of settlement approvals in Jerusalem agreed by the country’s interior ministry and Jerusalem municipality’s planning committees before Christmas.

That included proposals, which attracted international criticism, to develop the controversial E1 block to the east of Jerusalem.

Although Netanyahu, who leads a coalition with the ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman, is still expected to win the most seats in the 22 January vote, a new poll suggests he has been losing ground since Lieberman was indicted on anti-trust charges this month and forced to step down as foreign minister.

A poll conducted by Dialog gives 35 of parliament’s 120 seats to Netanyahu’s Likud-Beiteinu list, down from 39 in the previous Dialog survey. The centrist Labor party polled second, with 17 seats.

The poll shows a continued surge by the rightwing Jewish Home party. Its leader, Naftali Bennett, stirred up a storm last week by saying he would resist evacuating settlements if ordered to do so as a reserves soldier.

The issue of Israel’s illegal settlements has come to be a lightning-rod issue in the elections, even as Israel has faced mounting pressure to halt settlement expansion.

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