Israel's caretaker government is set to approve some 2,000 new houses in the West Bank settlements later this week.
According to its schedule published at the weekend, the Supreme Planning Board of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) will convene on Wednesday and Thursday to issue final approval for some 780 homes, essentially the last phase before the beginning of construction.
This number includes new construction in the settlements of Harsha (258 houses), Mitzpe Yeriho (147 houses), Halamish (about 100 houses) and Elon Moreh (107 houses).
After the 780 homes have been confirmed, some 1,000 other housing units are expected to be approved at various stages of the bureaucratic process. These homes are in settlements including Ma'ale Adumim (63 houses), Ma'ale Mikhmas (157 houses), Almon (110 houses) and Kokhav Ya'akov (160 houses).
Previous reports stated that the committee was expected to meet on the approval of 3,000 housing units, but that number was subsequently lowered to about 2,000.
Advancement of the construction comes days after ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced she has decided to investigate alleged war crimes perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians, including them the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank since it was captured by Israel 1967.
Peace Now, an NGO that promotes a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, slammed the decision and accused Netanyahu of implementing controversial policies without a mandate by the electorate and as the country prepared to hold its third election in less than 12 months.
"Netanyahu, with no authority or responsibility, keeps promoting more construction in the West Bank settlements all the while sacrificing the possibility of an agreement with the Palestinian people," Peace Now said.
"It is up to the next government to put this construction on hold immediately, renew the peace negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions and work to end the bloody conflict on the basis of a two-state solution."
The Yesha Council, an umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, praised the decision, however.
"We hold the hands of the prime minister and defense minister [Naftali Bennett] for approving such an unprecedented plan after eight years of a construction freeze in the West Bank settlements," the group said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced last November that the Trump administration is softening its position on Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
Pompeo said the administration had repudiated a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”
First published: 15:43 , 12.29.19