Israel's top settlement construction committee is about to meet next week to advance "multiple" expansion projects in the occupied West Bank, a Tel Aviv-based newspaper says.
The so-called Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to push through various projects, including construction of 2,600 settler units, The Times of Israel reported.
The fresh expansion plans come shortly after Donald Trump visited Israel. An Israeli official said Tel Aviv does not expect the building approvals to cause diplomatic trouble with Washington, having already discussed the issue with the US president.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday ordered a comprehensive review of all the new plans up for approval, but a settler leader said they were not enough.
Har Hevron Regional Council head Yohai Damari urged cabinet ministers "to strengthen the settlement movement and release all the plans that were frozen in the eight-year-long Obama dry spell,” referring to ex-president Barack Obama.
Shortly after Trump came to office, the White House insisted that Israeli settlements were not “an impediment to peace”. Encouraged by the new US administration, Israel unveiled plans in April to build 25,000 settler units in Jerusalem al-Quds.
The settlement construction is seen as an attempt by Israel at gradual annexation of the Palestinian lands.
Successive Israeli regimes have invested billions of dollars over the past 50 years on settlements in the occupied West Bank, making any withdrawal from the Palestinian territory a costly venture.
There is no official figure for Israel's overall spending on settlements since the June 1967 Six-Day War, which has seen more than 600,000 settlers planted among 2.9 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
According to the Macro Center for Political Economics which publishes reports on settlements, the total surface area of settlements expansion in the West Bank has doubled in 18 years.
As a financial incentive for the expansion of settlements, the average settler receives three times more in public subsidies than a resident of Israel.
"This burden has contributed to deepening social inequality in as much as the money goes to settlements and their defense at the expense of social budgets," AFP said on Saturday, quoting Shlomo Swirski of the Adva Center.
Political groups in Israel are now pushing for the annexation of settlement blocs and their surroundings and the occupied West Bank in full.
The United Nations has warned that any attempt made by Israel to annex the West Bank would destroy further prospects of "peace" talks.