Israel has approved the construction of nearly 2,000 new settler homes on occupied Palestinian territories, an anti-settlement watchdog group said on Monday.
Peace Now said that nearly 800 housing units received the final approvals needed for construction to begin. It said initial approvals were given for an additional 1,150 homes. Settlement projects require several rounds of approvals.
The green light was given on Sunday and Monday, the watchdog group said, adding that 89 percent of the new homes will be erected in “settlements that Israel may have to evacuate under a future peace agreement with the Palestinians”.
The Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, the Israeli military body that oversees civilian affairs in the occupied West Bank, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to Peace Now, settlement building has vastly increased under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ally US President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu has been fighting for his political survival after being charged with corruption and after failing to form a new coalition government following April and September elections.
The prime minister, who was indicted in November on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, is now facing a third general election in March.
“Despite lacking a clear mandate, for this caretaker government it’s business as usual – continue the massive promotion of harmful and unnecessary construction in occupied territory and in places that Israel will have to evacuate,” said Peace Now in a statement.
“Netanyahu continues to sabotage the prospects of peace, dragging Israel into an anti-democratic one-state reality resembling apartheid.”
Illegal under international law
Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 in a move never recognised by the international community.
Its settlements are deemed illegal under international law and widely seen as the main obstacle to peace.
Some 600,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem among around 2.9 million Palestinians.
Late last year, the Trump administration said it would no longer consider Israeli settlements in the occupied territories illegal.
The move was hailed by Netanyahu while Palestinians have been outraged.
The European Union, United Nations and others have stressed, however, that they continue to consider the settlements illegal.
Last month, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague announced that she believes there is a basis for investigating Israel’s settlement policies in the occupied West Bank, and that they could constitute a war crime.
The prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has asked the ICC to determine whether she has jurisdiction before opening a formal investigation.
Israel has argued that the occupied West Bank is disputed territory whose fate should be resolved in negotiations and that Bensouda has no jurisdiction in this case.