Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promoting a plan to build 700 new Palestinian housing units alongside some 6,000 Israeli units in the West Bank, just weeks after a controversial move to demolish apartments in East Jerusalem.
Israel has been facing criticism from the United Nations and others for tearing down the Palestinian-owned properties this month, officially because they were too close to a military buffer zone. The Israeli Supreme Court approved the toppling of the homes over security concerns.
Netanyahu has proposed the new housing at two Cabinet meetings and no government ministers have yet objected. A plan was submitted during one of the meetings Monday.
A previous plan to build more than 5,000 housing Palestinian units near Qalqilya in the West Bank four years ago was scrapped under pressure from right-wing groups in Israel. Over the past two years, though, Israeli authorities have torn down 400 Palestinian homes for zoning violations.
The new construction drew criticism from settlement leaders Yossi Dagan and Israel Gantz.
“The Palestinian Authority, with the help and financing of foreign organizations, is conducting massive illegal construction in the area in order to create a terror state in the heart of the country,” Dagan said Gantz said in a joint statement.
The proposal came after White House adviser Jared Kushner and U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt visited Israel last weekend. Kushner has been working on an Israel-Palestinian peace agreement that U.S. President Donald Trump has called the “Deal of the Century.”