Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to support so-called Greater Jerusalem Bill, which means annexation of 19 illegal settlements in Jerusalem area.
The large illegal Jewish settlement of Maaleh Adumim, where between 125,000 and 150,000 Israeli settlers live, is one of the settlements planned to be annexed.
Maale Adumim is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank's Jerusalem district. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli suburban city of Jerusalem, despite it being located on occupied Palestinian territory in contravention of international law.
"Maaleh Adumim will always be part of Israel and in addition I support the Greater Jerusalem bill," The Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as saying during a visit to the illegal settlement Tuesday. "I am also weighing placing Maaleh Adumim within the boundaries of Greater Jerusalem within the context of the Greater Jerusalem bill," he said.
The legislation was authored by Likud minister Yisrael Katz who is reportedly expected to bring the bill to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in the upcoming Knesset session. It would place 19 settlements, including those of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and Givat Zeev within Israel's municipal boundaries for Jerusalem.
The Israeli state annexed occupied East Jerusalem in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the bill would allow the settlers to retain their autonomy but afford them voting rights in the city's mayoral race. It would meanwhile create "independent municipalities" for some 100,000 Palestinian citizens or residents of Israel who live within Israel's Jerusalem municipality borders, but are located on the other side of Israel's illegal separation wall.
These neighborhoods, which have been referred to as a “no man’s land,” have not received proper municipal services since the wall’s construction. While most residents hold Jerusalem residency status and continue to pay taxes to the Israeli government, they are left severely neglected by Israeli authorities, as their neighborhoods are now located on the “West Bank side” of the separation barrier.
Residents now must pass through congested Israeli-controlled checkpoints to reach Jerusalem, while these neighborhoods face increasing problems from an absence of sewage infrastructure and other basic services traditionally provided by the Jerusalem municipality, including waste collection services, healthcare, and education assistance.
"We will intensify the momentum to develop Maaleh Adumim. We will build thousands of housing units here. We will add the necessary industrial areas and the expansion necessary to enable the accelerated development of this place. This place will be part of the State of Israel," Netanyahu continued in his remarks.
The Israeli premier further stated that he would advance plans for 4,000 new homes in settlements in the occupied West Bank after the Jewish holidays.