[JURIST] Israel’s Security Cabinet voted unanimously on Thursday to approve the first settlement in the West Bank in more than 20 years. The settlement will be constructed [Jerusalem Post report] near the Palestinian city of Nablus and is intended to house approximately 40 families whose houses were demolished in the clearing of an unauthorized settlement site in February. According to Peace Now [official website], an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group, the approval will also enable [press release] the retroactive legalization of three settlements in the West Bank. The action has been met with public outcry from Palestinian officials and comes one month after the US White House stated [press release] that while they ” don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”
While Israel and Palestine have a troubled past [HRW backgrounder], the issue of settlements in the West Bank have escalated tensions in the last decade. In November Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation unanimously approved [JURIST report] the Formalization Bill to legalize the West Bank outposts. In March the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said [JURIST report] that the office is concerned about the apparent extra-judicial execution of a Palestinian man in the West Bank. In January Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged [JURIST report] businesses to cease operations in Israel settlements. In August 2015 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged both sides of the conflict [JURIST report] to reconcile and move towards peace after an attack occurred in the West Bank village of Duma, where Jewish extremists allegedly set fire to a Palestinian home while a family slept inside. Last April HRW alleged [HRW report] that Israeli settlement farmers in the occupied West Bank are using Palestinian child laborers in dangerous conditions in violation of international laws.