RAMALLAH: Fears over the future of the two-state solution in Palestine have mounted after Israel approved a plan to build more than 4,000 settlement units in the West Bank.
The move threatens Palestinians’ hopes for a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent state.
If constructed, the settlements will sever the geographical contiguity between the occupied territories.
The Higher Planning Committee of the Israeli Civil Administration approved the construction of 4,427 new settlement-housing units in the occupied West Bank, according to NGO Peace Now.
Fifteen European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, have denounced the plans, and demanded that Israel shelve the proposal.
The US also confirmed its opposition to the new approvals.
The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the approval of the new settlement plans that include 3,988 housing units, including many isolated outposts.
The ministry said in a statement that the approval was granted despite strong opposition from the US administration, which was expressed by more than one US official last week.
The UN stressed that efforts to build confidence between the Palestinian and Israeli sides and the establishment of a truce is a prelude to resolving the conflict.
The ministry said that “the racist colonial decision comes within the framework of the creeping annexation of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Masafer Yatta and the Jordan Valley — to eliminate any chance of establishing a viable, geographically connected and sovereign Palestinian state.”
Some Palestinian critics argue that the Israeli government is racing against time to resolve the future of the final negotiated issues unilaterally and by force of occupation in accordance with Israel’s interests.
It is also trying to preserve the ruling coalition at the expense of Palestinian land and the rights of people, they claim.
The ministry called on the US administration to fulfill its commitments and promises, and to translate its positions and words into actions to pressure the Israeli government to stop all its settlement activities in a way that leads to the protection of the two-state solution.
About 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank across 125 settlements considered illegal under international law. Some Israelis marked the recent approval with celebrations.
Critics warn that Israeli governments have tolerated and even encouraged settlers to seize Palestinian land in Area C, which forms 60 percent of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Settlement activities reached their peak during the term of former US president Donald Trump, who supported Israeli unconditionally.
The ruling Israeli regime of Prime Minister Naftali Bennet is an ultimate supporter of settlement expansion and settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, critics say, pointing to Bennet’s tenure as mayor of a settlement in the West Bank.
Many in Palestine are deeply concerned that the expansion of settlements is detrimental to the two-state solution and forms a serious threat to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with geographical continuity — a longtime goal of Palestinian political figures.
Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian Initiative Party, told Arab News: “This confirms that Israel’s intention is to destroy any possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state.”
Barghouti said that the expansion of settlement-building under the Naftali government “is faster than any previous right-wing government, and it is, of course, worse than the Netanyahu government.”
He added: “It is shameful that parties such as the left-wing Meretz party and Mansour Abbas’ party remain in such a government, which must be brought down immediately.”
Barghouti said that Israel “will not be deterred unless sanctions by the US are imposed on it and the companies that invest in settlements.”
He noted that the US imposed heavy sanctions on Russia in the wake of the Ukraine invasion, but did not impose a single punitive measure against Israel, despite its apparent violation of international law.