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PARTICIPANTS IN the annual Hebron march show the flag, with the Tomb of the Patriarchs in the background.(Photo by: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Israel advancing plans for 4x more settler homes than last year
Among the projects on the list is new housing for the Jewish community in Hebron.
Israel will have advanced plans for 12,000 settler homes in 2017, Israeli officials said on Tuesday as they continued to defend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against charges that he had not done enough for Jewish building in the West Bank.

To date, plans for 5,000 settler homes have been advanced and tenders have been issued for 3,000 homes.

Next week, the Higher Planing Council for Judea and Samaria is set to hold its third meeting this year. According to officials, it will advance plans for 3,763 homes, bringing the total to close to 12,000.

That’s four times the number of plans that were debated in 2016, the officials said. This includes projects for settlements that have not seen new homes in many years. Among the projects on the list is new housing for the Jewish community in Hebron, permanent homes for the evacuees from the Migron outpost and 300 homes for the Beit El settlement.

“Those who claim that this is not a significant improvement mislead the public,” the officials said.

They spoke as Netanyahu has been under pressure from settler leaders to do more to approve building projects in West Bank settlements. They have been particularly concerned that Netanyahu is over-dramatizing the actual amount of projects in which new construction can occur.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who is a member of the Likud Central Committee and an ardent supporter of US President Donald Trump, has had particularly harsh things to say about Netanyahu's settlement policy.

He explained that, in reality, the list involved only 700 new units.

Netanyahu has continued to clamp down on settlement building, just as he did during the former Obama Administration, Dagan charged.

“Unfortunately, Netanyahu is missing a historic opportunity here,” Dagan said.

In particular, he noted the absence of industrial zones and roads from the list. Trump might not like the settlement building, but won’t condemn it as Obama did, Dagan said.

Israeli officials said in response: “There is no one who has done more in a wise and determined manner for the settlements than Netanyahu.”

The council’s meeting comes as President Trump is working to advance a new peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli officials said that Netanyahu must pay attention to the diplomatic situation.

“Those who think it is possible to ignore diplomatic considerations are also mistaken,” the officials said.

The Palestinians condemned Israeli plans to promote more settlement homes.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization's (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashram said, “Clearly, Israel is bent on entrenching the military occupation and its illegal settlement enterprise, further reaffirming its intentions of displacing Palestine and replacing it with 'Greater Israel.'"

According to Palestinian news agency WAFA, Ashram spoke against the building on Monday during a meeting with Norwegian Representative Hilde Haraldstad in Ramallah.

“Rather than becoming party to Israel's unlawful breach of international law and conventions, the global community should hold Israel accountable for acting outside the law before it destroys the prospects of a viable Palestinian state, peace and stability indefinitely,” she said, according to WAFA.
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