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July 31, 2019 8:54 am

Ahead of Kushner Visit, Israel Announces New West Bank Homes for Both Settlers, Palestinians

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Laborers work at a construction site in Beitar Illit, April 7, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun / File.

Israel will build 6,000 new homes for settlers in the West Bank, but in a rare step it has also approved permits for 700 houses for Palestinians.

The announcement was made on Wednesday ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy and son-in-law Jared Kushner to explore prospects for his Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. Details of the plan remain vague, however.

Most settlements are concentrated in Area C of the West Bank, which under the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords is fully controlled by Israel.

Israeli officials said on Wednesday Netanyahu’s cabinet had approved permits 6,000 new homes for settlers and 700 new homes for Palestinians in Area C in what they described as a bid to rein in pirate construction.

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According to Israel, about 450,000 settlers and 250,000-290,000 Palestinians live in Area C. A total of about 3 million Palestinians live throughout the West Bank.

Saying it rejected any Israeli construction or controls over Palestinian construction in the West Bank, the Palestinian leadership dismissed the housing announcement.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, however, said the permits for the Palestinians were the first for some time.

“We spend lots of time speaking with the Israelis about improving conditions in the West Bank and Gaza,” he told CNN.

Friedman sidestepped questions about whether the Trump administration foresaw a Palestinian state or Israeli annexations of West Bank land.

“We want the Palestinians to have autonomy. We want the Palestinians to govern themselves,” he said.

Israel has not presented to us any plan to retain or annex any portion of the West Bank and we have no view on it at all right now,” Friedman added.

He added that in his view, Israel had the legal right to retain some portion of the West Bank.

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