Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a move meant to placate the Right following the failed vote on the settlement regulation bill, approved new construction in West Bank settlements.
The bill, which attempted evade a High Court ruling ordering the eviction of five homes in Beit El\’s Ulpana neighborhood, was voted down 69:22.
Wednesday evening saw Netanyahu and Housing and Construction Minister Ariel Atias greenlight 851 new housing units – 300 for Beit El and 551 for four other settlements.
The two agreed to immediately issue the construction tenders. Sources privy to the details said that "The obstacles have been removed and we\’re looking at where more construction can be approved."
The settlements most likely to get new housing units at this time are Efrat, Gush Etzion and Karnei Shomron.
Netanyahu is risking censure by the United States and Europe, which have repeatedly voiced their objection to expanding existing settlements.
Prime Minister Netanyahu held a special press conference on Wednesday evening, during which he defended the Knesset\’s decision: "Passing this bill would have hurt Beit El… Those who think the legal system was used to ram the settlement movement are wrong. Beit El is not getting smaller – it\’s getting bigger. Beit El will be expanded," he said.
Efrat Regional Council Head Oded Revivi told Ynet that he was "Contacted by two ministers who informed me that 400 housing units will be approved by the end of the week.
"I regret that in order to get this permit another neighborhood had to be razed. I hope that the permits are given and that we end up remembering this day as one when the settlement was reinforced."
The Palestinian Authority condemned the decision: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas\’ Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that the decision is "sabotaging the peace efforts.
"The Israeli government is taunting the Palestinian people, its leadership, the Arab nation and international law," he said.
Washington also expressed its disapproval of the move. A State Department official said that the US was aware of both the vote and the subsequent decision to approve new construction, adding that "Continued Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank undermines the peace efforts and contradicts Israeli commitments and obligations including the 2003 Roadmap.
"The US position on Israeli settlements is clear – we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity. We also oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts," the official said.