Opposition leader Yair Lapid, who hopes to be part of a coalition aiming to topple Netanyahu in the March elections, tweeted, “The Biden administration still hasn’t taken office and the government is already leading us into an unnecessary confrontation.”
Biden said he opposes settlement expansion and he has done so Clash with Netanyahu On this issue in the past. The president-elect has been known to be a staunch supporter of Israel during his three decades in the Senate, and he and Netanyahu have cited their long relationship in hopes of a friendly start to its next phase.
But Biden was also No. 2 in the Obama administration that often clashed with Netanyahu. As Vice President, Biden was angry during a visit in 2010 when the government ministry announced plans to build 1,600 new housing units in an ultra-Orthodox settlement in East Jerusalem, an area that Palestinians covet as the capital of their future state.
Although Netanyahu has shocked himself by the timing of the 2010 announcement, there is no doubt that the political establishment in Israel is fully aware of the sensitivity surrounding such a declaration of settlements now, nine days before Biden is sworn in.
“We are here to stay,” Netanyahu said in a Facebook post on Monday. “We are continuing to build the Land of Israel!”
The ruling Palestinian Authority accused Israel of “stealing more Palestinian lands in an attempt to completely close the door to any opportunity to establish an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Representatives from Jordan, Egypt and several European governments meeting in Cairo to discuss jointly launching the Israeli-Palestinian peace process called on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities.”
Monday’s announcement – for the second time in recent weeks that the government is giving the green light to new housing units in the occupied territories – will allow the construction of 800 homes in at least 10 settlements.
Political observers said several factors may have accounted for the timing of the notice. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition is calling for more housing in the settlements, as the number of Israelis approaches 500,000. They said the prime minister might also think that approving construction now would cause less anger in Washington than waiting for Biden to take office and he could formally object.
“It might be like a heavy dose of oxygen before diving underwater when it is easy to make such statements,” said a former diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, to comment openly.
Israel is preparing for sharp changes in the position of the White House. Trump reversed decades of precedent by agreeing to annex the Golan Heights and envisaging a new settlement there He was named in his honor. It also nullified the long-standing policy of the United States Announcing Settlements are not inherently illegal under international law.
Most importantly, Trump’s peace plan would have allowed for full annexation of settlements into Israel, a move that critics have said would end the prospects for a cohesive Palestinian state in the West Bank. That was the suggestion On the shelf as part of the diplomatic deal I arrived last year between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
But domestic concerns may have been the biggest driver of Monday’s move. Israel is heading to a fourth national election in just two years, on March 23, and for the first time, Netanyahu faces a major challenge from the right. Polls show that Gideon Saar, a settlement champion and former minister in Netanyahu’s Likud, has garnered enough conservative support to threaten the prime minister’s record-breaking rule.
“What he’s trying to do is to enter the window of opportunity, in the days before Biden takes office, to make himself seen as the only Israeli leader who can really take care of settlements and settlers,” said Gail Talcher. Professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Of the new building permits, 100 will go to Tal Menashe, a settlement in the northern West Bank where a woman was killed during the afternoon of last month in an alleged Palestinian attack. Her husband called for an increase in housing construction as the “appropriate Zionist response” to her death.
“It’s becoming clear to everyone,” said Dalia Sheindlin, one of the pollsters in Tel Aviv. When there is an attack on the Israelis: building more settlements. Netanyahu knows that this is the currency. He is fighting for his political survival. “