Netanyahu advances plans for settler units to house residents of homes slated for demolition

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly advanced plans for 68 housing units in the illegal settlement of Ofra in the occupied West Bank in order to house Israeli settlers residing in nine homes slated for demolition in February, Israeli media reported on Friday.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, an Israeli senior official had reported that a meeting was held on Wednesday between Israeli officials in order to form an agreement with the Israeli settlers.However, Israeli residents of the homes reportedly told Haaretz that they had not been informed of any deal, and rejected the offer of housing units, instead demanding an “inclusive agreement process.”

The Ofra settlement has recently begun expanding without obtaining permission from the Israeli government, Haaretz reported, noting that ten to twenty mobile homes were set up in the span of a week without permits, in addition to another ten caravans the Israeli government had approved for the relocation of some of the residents of the Amona outpost, also slated for demolition in February. Ofra settlers reportedly announced this week that they were planning a hunger strike outside the Israeli Knesset to obtain government recognition for the unauthorized homes built on private Palestinian land.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government announced plans to build 2,500 housing units in illegal settlements in the West Bank on Tuesday, only two days after Netanyahu pledged to lift all restrictions on settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem and to advance settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Rights groups have highlighted that, while the settler outposts constructed in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government, each of the some 196 government-approved Israeli settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are also built in direct violation of international law.

While members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, Israeli leaders have instead shifted further to the right.More than half of the ministers in the current Israeli government have publicly stated their opposition to a Palestinian state and advocated for annexation of the West Bank.

A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.