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Israel's New Planned Settlements Stir Emotions

  • Robert Berger

Bulldozers demolish houses in the West Bank settlement of Ofra, March 1, 2017.

Israel's planned new major settlement is stirring emotions both among Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinians are furious after Israel announced that it will build the first new Jewish settlement in the West Bank in 20 years. Palestinian officials say the settlements are illegal under international law and such construction is another nail in the coffin of the peace process.

Ayman Abu Ahmad, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, says it is clear that Israel does not want peace.

“The peace they want is to take everything, to take the land, take control of the borders, and the situation is very bad," he said.

The announcement of the new settlement came two months after the Israeli army dismantled another Jewish community in the West Bank under orders from Israel’s Supreme Court. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he is fulfilling a promise to the more than 300 evacuated settlers that he would build them a new community.

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration had appealed to Israel to curb settlement activity, saying it harms efforts to revive peace talks with the Palestinians that collapsed three years ago. Nevertheless, the plans for a new settlement brought muted reaction from the White House.

That is in sharp contrast to the previous administration of Barack Obama, who bitterly opposed settlement expansion.

Former Israeli diplomat Zalmon Shoval believes there is a quiet understanding between Israel and the Trump administration for limited construction in the settlements.

“From the reactions in Washington you can see — not that they are enthusiastic about it necessarily — but that they take this in their stride, understanding that Netanyahu had a political commitment which he had to honor," Shoval said.

As a result, Jewish settlers and their supporters in the right-wing Israeli government are declaring victory, saying it is a historic day for Zionism and the state of Israel.

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