The Israeli prime minister has welcomed the expansion of settlements in the West Bank

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JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday welcomed the recent decision to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians and most of the international community see as illegal.

While inspecting the Elkana settlement, he threw out the expansion of settlements in response to the recent Palestinian violence. Palestinians see settlement construction as a major obstacle to peace because it further weakens their hopes for an independent state on Israeli-occupied land through war.

“In the face of enemy violence, the Zionist answer has always been settlement, security and immigration,” Bennett said. “Last week we approved here in Elkana, I understand, the largest amount of construction at once since the city was founded.”

He appears to be referring to the approval of more than 4,000 settler homes by a military planning agency. The decision comes a week after Israel’s Supreme Court upheld an order declaring at least 1,000 Palestinians from a region in the West Bank a military firing zone.

Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war, and the Palestinians want it to be a major part of their future state. Israel has already built more than 130 settlements that are home to about 500,000 settlers today. About 3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank under Israeli military rule.

Most of the international community, including the Biden administration, sees the settlements as an obstacle to peace because they shrink and divide the territory in which an independent Palestinian state will be established. But global powers have not encouraged Israel to halt its construction, despite calls for a two-state solution.

Bennett, a longtime supporter of the settlement who once led the main settlement council, is opposed to a Palestinian state. He led a government that included parties across Israel’s political spectrum, some of which were opposed to settlement.

In the interest of keeping the alliance together, they have refused any major peace initiatives or direct annexations, while continuing to expand settlements and take some steps to help the Palestinians economically.

There has been no serious or substantive peace talks for more than a decade. Many Palestinians see the invasion of Israel as an inevitable response to almost 55 years of military occupation that has no end.

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