Israel starts work on new West Bank settlement


Ground has been broken in the West Bank for the first new Israeli settlement in two decades to compensate for an outpost demolished earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Jason Greenblatt, the U.S. special representative for worldwide negotiations, arrived in Israel on Monday for preliminary discussions in Jerusalem and Ramallah, and will remain for follow-up talks after Kushner has left, Reuters reported.

Building settler homes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank soared 70 percent in 2017 to March, data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics showed today.

In a press statement, Abu Rudeineh said the announcement "constitutes a serious escalation and is an attempt to thwart the efforts of the US administration and US President Donald Trump".

Most countries view the Israeli-built settlements on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war as illegal, which Israel disputes.

Tuesday's ground-clearing work was in preparation for the installation of dozens of mobile homes for the families evicted from Amona, a spokesman for the main settler organisation, the Yesha Council, said.

His platform made no mention of an independent Palestinian state, and his inner circle includes strong supporters of the settlement movement.

In Israel last month, Trump was silent on settlements, at least publicly.

Greenblatt is to be joined by Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday.

Palestinians vociferously object to the establishment of a new West Bank settlement, saying all such settlement-building activity hurts the prospects for a two-state solution.

"An Israeli high court said that this was illegal, so Netanyahu had to get rid of the people who lived there and move them on to somewhere else", he added in his report. Most of the world considers settlements built on occupied land illegal under global law, a position Israel disputes.

Kushner is visiting the region with ambitious hopes of laying the groundwork for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel also cites biblical, historical and security interests to defend settlements.