Netanyahu and members of his government have bristled at the harsh condemnations of settlement growth by the anti-Israel Obama administration, which condemned the Jewish communities as “illegitimate” and “an obstacle to peace.”
Trump has signaled more accommodating policies toward Israel and has called for moving the U.S. Embassy to Yerushalayim.
“We’re building – and will continue to build,” Netanyahu said following the announcement.
There was no initial reaction to the announcement by the Trump White House or the State Department.
The 2,500 units represented the largest expansion since U.S.-led peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel broke down in April 2014.
The announcement of the 2,500 units does not guarantee fast-track construction. For the units to be built, the government needs to publish tenders and accept bids from builders.
100 of the possible new units are in Beit El, a West Bank settlement supported by David Friedman, Trump’s selection to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.
Palestinians called the Israeli move a possible sign of more aggressive settlement construction.
“It is evident that Israel is exploiting the inauguration of the new American administration to escalate its violations and the prevention of any existence of a Palestinian state,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Israeli plans undermine efforts to bring peace to the Middle East and will promote extremism.
The spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, called on the international community to take a “real and serious position” against Israel’s plans.
During the Obama administration, such a settlement construction announcement often came under increasingly harsh criticism, with the State Department suggesting the moves undermined Middle East peace and raised questions about Netanyahu’s commitment to a the so-called “two-state solution” with the Palestinians.
“We are returning to normal life in Judea and Samaria,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement announcing the plans.
The announcement of 2,500 units comes just two days after a Yerushalayim planning committee approved the construction of 560 housing units in Yerushalayim.
Israeli officials stressed that most of the 2,500 new housing units in the West Bank would be built in so-called “settlement blocs,” densely populated lands that leaders here say will always remain in Israel, regardless of any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
In the same announcement, Lieberman approved the construction of a Palestinian industrial park outside Chevron.
“It will be one of the largest industrial zones in the West Bank, in which we are planning to set up warehouse and fuel storage infrastructure, along with other elements,” Lieberman said in a statement.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · William Booth