The Israeli Security Cabinet on Thursday approved the construction of the first new Jewish settlement in the West Bank in 20 years, setting the stage for a confrontation with the Palestinians who bitterly oppose the project and claim the land as their own.
The move — which still needs approval from the entire Cabinet — came despite a request from President Donald Trump in February to put the brakes on any new settler developments.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been under pressure at home by hard-line settlers and their backers to relocate some 30 families who had been forcibly evicted from the Amona settlement in the West Bank after the Israeli high court ruled it was illegal.
Netanyahu's announcement Thursday was terse and straight to the point: "The Political-Security Cabinet unanimously approved this evening the establishment of a new settlement for the evacuees of Amona, in the Shilo Valley region."
While more than 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Israel has not built a full-fledged new settlement since the 1990s. Instead, building during that period has expanded existing settlements or taken place in unauthorized outposts like Amona. Netanyahu's hard-line government, which is dominated by settler allies, recently passed legislation aimed at legalizing dozens of those outposts.
The Palestinians and much of the international community consider the settlements obstacles to peace because they occupy up territory where the Palestinians seek to establish a future state. Israel says the status of settlements as well as other issues, such as security, should be resolved in peace talks.