Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Israel's government approved 3,000 new West Bank housing units, accelerating a settlement program in areas disputed by Palestinians.
The announcement Tuesday came a week after plans for 2,500 more homes in the West Bank, and 566 in East Jerusalem, were announced. One settlement, Amona, is about to be demolished, with 42 families moving elsewhere after years of legal wrangling determined it was built on land proven in court to be Palestinian property.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is under Israeli jurisdiction and administration. The establishment of Jewish settlements -- about 400,000 Israelis currently reside there -- has been denounced internationally because the area is regarded as a future Palestinian state should a two-state solution be enacted. Israel regards the land as its ancient homeland of Judea and Samaria. In December the U.N. Security Council was critical of the construction of more settlements, an action supported by the United States at the end of the Obama administration.
The new U.S. administration has emboldened Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with tacit approval of the settlements. President Donald Trump appointed David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel; he opposes a two-state solution and is a supporter of settlements.
The decision to expand the settlements was condemned by Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator Saeb Erekat in a statement on Tuesday.
"Israel continues to systematically violate the rights of the Palestinian people and to give a green light and support for settlers to take over more Palestinian land and to terrorize the Palestinian population. This immoral situation shouldn't continue to be tolerated by the International community. It has to end. The commitment of Netanyahu's government to colonization and segregation and its determination to defy international law and resolutions continues to destroy the prospects of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine."
Netanyahu is a proponent of legislation which retroactively legalizes all settlements in the West Bank. Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit has called the statute illegal, adding he would not defend any challenges against it in court.