Israel seeks permission for hundreds of new West Bank settlements
Israel is seeking approval for hundreds of new settler homes in the northern West Bank settlements of Itamar and Bruchin, Israeli media reported Thursday.
The Jerusalem Post reported plans to build 538 new homes while legalizing 137 existing units.
However, Haaretz put the number of new homes in Itamar at 537 and 130 to be legalized.
The post said the applications were submitted to regional planning authorities this week, adding 550 new homes in Bruchin were also submitted.
According to AFP, Burchin was a former wildcat outpost authorized retroactively in April in a decision which brought a statement of “concern” from EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
Earlier in May, an Israeli watchdog group accused the government of taking steps to legalize four unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank.
In the same month, 300 homes in the settlement of Beit El, which is near the West Bank capital Ramallah, were given the go ahead.
The latest moves come as the United States works to rekindle dormant peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians where Israeli settlement building is a prime sticking point, AFP repoted.
The United States has previously warned Israel that plans to build additional settlements were “counterproductive.”
“As the president said, Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace and that an independent Palestine must be viable, with real borders that have to be drawn,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell was quoted saying by AFP.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967.