Israeli media said that on Sunday, a pro-settlement extremist minister, Bezalel Smotrich, got power over planning in the occupied West Bank illegal settlements scheme. The Israeli government also removed bureaucratic hurdles for approving illegal settlement.
The new plans assist the Israeli occupation to extend its illegal settlements on Palestinian land.
As U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf was visiting the region to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the Israeli government passed a measure on Sunday that gave Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich the power to oversee planning in West Bank settlements.
Smotrich had demanded this power as a condition for joining the government.
The planning authority in the West Bank, which has been under military occupation for 56 years, usually belongs to the defense minister. Smotrich is also a minister in the Defense Ministry.
The decision was denounced by Peace Now, an anti-settlement group in Israel, for “ignoring security and political factors and continuing the de facto annexation in the West Bank.”
The change coincided with an announcement by an Israeli planning committee that it would seek approval for about 4,500 housing units in the West Bank next week.
Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has since built many illegal settlements where more than 500,000 Jewish settlers live next to around 2.5 million Palestinians.
The Israeli settlements are widely seen as illegal by the international community and a barrier to peace with the Palestinians.