Israel’s plans OK for thousands of new settlement homes. The move defies calls for restraint from the White House

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s far-right government on Monday approved plans to build thousands of new homes in the occupied West Bank — a move that threatened to worsen increasingly strained relations with the United States.

The decision challenged growing American criticism of Israel’s settlement policies in the occupied lands. It has also heightened tensions with the Palestinians at a time of mounting violence in the occupied territories.

Several Israeli media reported that the Defense Ministry’s planning committee that oversees settlement construction has approved more than 5,000 new homes in the settlements. The units are in various stages of planning and it was not immediately clear when construction would begin. The ministry did not immediately comment.

The international community, along with the Palestinians, views settlement building as illegal or illegitimate and an obstacle to peace. More than 700,000 Israelis now live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem – territories captured by Israel in 1967 and sought by Palestinians for a future state.

The Israeli government, which took office in late December, is dominated by religious and ultranationalist politicians with close ties to the settler movement.

The Biden administration has been increasingly outspoken in its criticism of Israel’s settlement policies and has repeatedly called on Israel to halt construction. Despite criticism, the United States has taken little action against its close ally.

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