BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee Member Dr. Hanan Ashrawi condemned Israel’s plans to build nearly 4,000 new illegal settlement units across the occupied West Bank, during a meeting with Norwegian Representative Hilde Haraldstad on Monday.
Ashrawi’s comments came after Israeli media reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to approve the construction of 3,829 settlements, a promise that Netanyahu himself reportedly made to settler leaders last month.
The pending units include 300 in the Ramallah-area Beit El settlement; 206 in the Tekoa settlement and 158 in Kfar Etzion, both south of Bethlehem; 129 in the Tulkarem-area Avne Hefez settlement; 102 in Negohot, in the southern Hebron hills; 97 in the Nablus-area Rehelim settlement; 48 in the Ramallah-area Ma’ale Mikhmas settlement; and 30 in an unspecified Hebron-area settlement.
“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’,” Ashrawi said, highlighting that permits will be granted for settlements where construction has not taken place in years.
“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,” Ashrawi said during her meeting with Haraldstad at the PLO Headquarters in Ramallah.
Ashrawi expressed her appreciation to the Norwegian government for its “consistent and positive position towards Palestine and its dedication to peace and justice,” while urging Norway to “affirm its commitment to ending the occupation and achieving the two-state solution by recognizing the state of Palestine in the immediate future.”
“It is vital that European countries exhibit the political will necessary to take decisive action to end the occupation and to remove all of its manifestations from Palestinian soil,” she said.
Since the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis have moved into Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international law.
The estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law.
Meanwhile, Israeli rights group B’Tselem reported that in 2016 Palestinians experienced the highest number of Israeli demolitions since the group began recording the incidents.
At the same time, settlement watchdog Peace now reported that Israel’s illegal settlement construction in the West Bank increased by 34 percent in 2016, with Israeli authorities initiating construction on 1,814 new settler housing units.