Israel Begins Work on First New Settlement in 20 Years

Xavier Trudeau
Juin 22, 2017

Construction begins just a day before a delegation of Trump Administration officials are headed to Israel and the West Bank to talk with officials in an attempt to kickstart the peace process.

President Donald Trump's son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, arrived in the region on Wednesday for a daylong visit aimed at restarting long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

"Work began today on-site, as I promised, to establish the new settlement", Netanyahu wrote on his Twitter feed, which included a photograph of mechanical equipment digging into a rocky field. President Obama had been sharply critical of Israeli construction in the West Bank, which Palestinians say must become part of a future Palestinian state.

While Israel has continued to expand settlements, this is the first time it has built a new one since the 1990s.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Hamas, which controls the Strip, said that Israel and the Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas were jointly responsible for the "catastrophic consequences" of the reduction.

The Amichai settlement, in the northern West Bank, is earmarked for some 40 families evicted from the wildcat outpost of Amona in February under a high court order which ruled their homes had been built illegally on private Palestinian land. Yet on Tuesday, Israel broke ground for its first new settlement in 25 years. Most of the world considers settlements built on occupied land illegal under worldwide law, a position Israel disputes.

"There was not, and there will never be, as good a government for the settlements as ours", the prime minister added.

The arrival of Kushner, who the president has tapped to oversee Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, comes one month after Trump visited Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Bethlehem for meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas.

Pro-settlement hard-liners who dominate Mr Netanyahu's coalition and oppose Palestinian statehood on security or religious grounds had pressed him to keep that promise.

"Israel did not cause the problems in Gaza, no single Israeli settler has lived in Gaza for ten years", she said, referring to the unilateral Israeli evacuation of Gaza under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2005.

The land is surrounded by a number of other small settlements and is a few kilometres from the Palestinian village of Duma, where a Palestinian family were burned alive by radical settlers in 2015. Israel also cites biblical, historical and security interests to defend settlements.

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