Thursday, 19 April, 2018

Israel Begins Work on First New Settlement in 20 Years

Melinda Barton | 29 June, 2017, 08:55

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that ground had been broken on the first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in almost two decades, just as US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace envoys are in Israel this week.

Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, his lead worldwide negotiator, will meet with leaders from both sides after accompanying Trump on his visit to the region last month.

Netanyahu announced Tuesday on Twitter that "work began today on-site, as I promised, to establish the new settlement", including a picture of construction equipment breaking ground.

Netanyahu had vowed to build the settlement to replace Amona, dismantled in February after an Israeli Supreme Court ruling.

Netanyahu said: "After decades, I have the privilege to be the prime minister who is building a new community in Judea and Samaria [the Israeli name for the occupied Palestinian territories]".

"Such construction continues to distance us from the only way to end the Israeli Palestinian conflict - a two-state solution".

At least 600,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Before the "Oslo Accords" officially opened negotiations in 1993, between Palestine and Israel, roughly 200,000 settlers illegally lived in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

But the official said any peace deal "will take time" and likely require "many visits by both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt" to the region.

However the settler movement is also putting pressure on Netanyahu and on Monday (June 19) he said: "There was not and will not be a better government for settlement than our government". The area, captured by Israel in 1967, is not sovereign Israeli territory and Palestinians there are not Israeli citizens and do not have the right to vote.

Officials say Egypt has begun trucking 1 million liters of cheap diesel fuel to Gaza's power plant, in a rare delivery meant to ease a crippling electricity crisis in the Hamas-ruled enclave.

Kusher, a senior advisor to President Donald Trump as well as the president's Jewish son-in-law, arrived in Israel on Wednesday to lead the Trump administration's push for restarted peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Settlements are seen as illegal under global law and are major stumbling blocks to a solution as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state in a two-state settlement.