Israeli cabinet approves 1st new settlement in 2 decades
New settlement will replace Amona, which was destroyed earlier this year
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet has approved Israel's first new settlement in two decades to compensate for the court-ordered demolition of a settler outpost.
Netanyahu said late Thursday the decision passed unanimously to replace Amona, honouring a promise he made after it was destroyed earlier this year.
He said it will be built near Shiloh, close to the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank.
For the past two decades, the international community has backed a two-state solution to the conflict where a Palestinian state would be established alongside Israel in territory it captured in the 1967 war.
In December, weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump was inaugurated, then-president Barack Obama allowed the UN Security Council to pass a resolution that declared all settlements in both areas to be illegal. Trump condemned the decision at the time.
Trump pledged sympathy
On the campaign trail, Trump indicated he would be far more sympathetic to settlements than Obama and the international community, which consider Israeli construction on occupied land to be illegal. His platform made no mention of an independent Palestinian state, and his inner circle includes strong supporters of the settlement movement.
But since taking office, Trump has appeared to change his position, telling an Israeli newspaper last month that settlements "may not be helpful" and telling Netanyahu at the White House that he would like to see some restraint. Since then, Israel and the U.S. have been in talks over what kind of construction the White House would tolerate.
White House envoy Jason Greenblatt has already made two visits to the region, including attending an Arab summit in Jordan this week. In hopes of renewing peace talks for the first time since 2014, the official said the White House will continue to work with all sides.
"We hope that the parties will take reasonable actions moving forward that create a climate that is conducive to peace," he said.
Over 600,000 Israelis now live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. But Israel has not built a full-fledged new settlement since the 1990s. Instead, construction during that period has expanded existing settlements or taken place in unauthorized outposts like Amona. Netanyahu's hard-line government, which is dominated by settler allies, recently passed legislation aimed at legalizing dozens of those outposts.
The Palestinians and the international community consider the settlements obstacles to peace because they gobble up territory where the Palestinians seek to establish their state.
Israel says the status of settlements as well as other issues, such as security, should be resolved in peace talks.
Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi condemned the new settlement approval and called for international intervention.
"Today's announcement once again proves that Israel is more committed to appeasing its illegal settler population than to abiding by the requirements for stability and a just peace," she said. "It is time that all members of the international community serve the cause of peace and justice and bring Israel to cease and desist its unlawful settlement activities and illegal unilateralism once and for all."