RAMALLAH: Israeli settlement construction on Palestinian land in the West Bank has increased dramatically under the recently dissolved coalition government, a report by an Israeli human rights organization reveals.
In a survey published on June 25, the Israeli Peace Now movement said that since the current government took office in June 2021, the building of new settlement units in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, has risen by 62 percent compared with the previous Benjamin Netanyahu leadership.
Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on June 20 announced a deal to dissolve the parliament, appointing Lapid as prime minister of an interim government, and triggering early elections.
The decision follows “exhausting attempts to stabilize the coalition,” a joint statement said.
The Peace Now report shows that despite its commitment to a status quo regarding the occupation, a year after the government took office, it not only continued the policies of previous governments, but also stepped up the settlement project and the oppression of Palestinians.
The report indicated a 26 percent increase in planning housing units in settlements — 7,292 compared with an annual average of 5,784 housing units under the Netanyahu government.
Six new outposts and a new settlement in Hebron, the first in 40 years, were among the government’s approvals.
The Bennett-Lapid government deepened the expulsion policy of Palestinians and their restriction to the constrained enclaves in Areas A and B.
As of June 6, the Israeli civil administration had demolished 639 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, causing 604 people to lose their homes.
In East Jerusalem, 189 structures were demolished and 450 Palestinians left homeless.
According to the Peace Now report, only 10 building permits were granted for Palestinians, compared with 1,448 housing units whose construction began in the settlements in the second half of 2021 and 2,526 in the entire year.
Under the Bennett-Lapid government, 86 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank alone compared with 41 under the Netanyahu governments.
Khalil Al-Tafkaji, a Palestinian expert specializing in settlement affairs and director of the map department at the Arab Studies Association in Jerusalem, told Arab News: “The Israeli right is in agreement on two things: Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and it was a fierce competition between the two governments as to who accelerates the increase in settlements.”
The Israeli settlements program in the Palestinian territories has been “green lighted” by all Israeli governments as they seek to raise the number of settlers to 1 million in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by 2025, Al-Tafkaji said.
“All Israeli parties, without exception, do not think of giving the Palestinians a state, but rather see them living in cantons surrounded by settlements and their streets on all sides,” he said.
“The settlers are now leading an intifada of physical attacks against the Palestinians and their property in the West Bank because of their high number and sense of absolute power.”
The Bennett-Lapid government declared 22,000 dunams of land as a nature reserve in the Nachal Og area, south of Jericho. It continued the trend of the Netanyahu government in changing the reality in the Temple Mount (the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound) and the erosion of the status quo.
The supporters of a two-state solution in the Israeli government have failed to stop these actions and left the policies regarding the occupation to those who support the settlement project.
Settlement activity across the West Bank flourished during former US President Donald Trump’s time in power, even though it was considered illegal under international law and threatened the two-state solution.
Palestinians see it as one of the main obstacles to establishing an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.