By Madison Feser
Despite international opposition, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced the construction of 2,500 new settlement homes within West Bank. His decision comes just two days after the approval of over 500 building permits in East Jerusalem, according to Al Jazeera.
Since Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, questions of legitimacy have surrounded Israel’s claim to East Jerusalem as part of their “eternal and indivisible” capital. The State of Palestine asserts West Bank and the Gaza Strip as their sovereign territory, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel, citing religious beliefs and historical precedent, holds East Jerusalem as its rightful territory and, as such, does not require permission to settle the region.
Netanyahu defended his position, as reported by Reuters, saying that is no longer a need to coordinate construction only in the Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Netanyahu added that Israel could now build wherever they wanted, and build as much as they wanted.
An NPR report on increasing settlement in East Jerusalem affirms Netanyahu’s ideas on Israel building rights. In 1993, the Israeli population of West Bank numbered around 100,000. Today, over 400,000 settlers live in West Bank, with an additional 200,000 residing in the disputed territory of East Jerusalem.
Most of the international community does not recognize East Jerusalem as part of Israel or Palestine. Instead, they view it as a key bargaining tool in future peace negotiations between the bordering states. As a result, Tel Aviv houses nearly all international embassies within Israel, rather than the capital Jerusalem. However, with United States President Donald Trump promising to relocate the U.S. embassy to
Tel Aviv, international hesitations surrounding East Jerusalem may shift.
Trump’s potential policy stands in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, whose administration broke self-precedent of defending its strategically important ally Israel. During its final weeks, the Obama Administration abstained from participating in the 14-0 U.N. Security Council vote condemning Israeli settlements, reports NPR.
Most members of the U.N. believe the continued encroachment into East Jerusalem and other parts of West Bank destroys the possibility of a “two-state solution” for peace. The two-state solution proposes a clear separation of Israel and Palestine into two distinct states, each with its own people, laws, capitals, and customs. Such a solution is difficult to achieve due to continued disputes over Jerusalem and ill-defined territorial borders.
According to The New York Times, French President François Hollande spoke against Israeli settlements, saying the current two-state solution is being physically threatened by the acceleration of settlements.
Palestinian officials warn that although settlements are an obstacle for peace, the true threat lies in an embassy move to Jerusalem, which would begin to legitimize Israeli occupation of the area.
Dr. Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, called for a change of action in an email statement to The New York Times. Erekat suggested holding Israel accountable for its “systemic violation of human rights and international law”, rather than viewing Israel as a country above the law in negotiations.