Israel is “quietly” advancing illegal settlement construction projects in and around the city of al-Quds as the occupying entity remains wary of the administration US President Joe Biden, the Associated Press reports.
On Wednesday, Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid met with US officials in Washington, with discussions according to a regime official focusing primarily on Iran and Tel Aviv’s ties with Arab states.
The Israeli official acknowledged that the Americans had raised the Israeli settlements issue, but stressed that Palestine was “not the dominant theme in the region” during the discussions.
On the same day, a local planning committee in al-Quds approved the expropriation of land for Givat Hamatos settlement, which would largely cut the city off from Palestinian communities in the southern West Bank.
The same committee also advanced plans for the construction of 470 homes in the existing East al-Quds settlement of Pisgat Zeev.
Additionally, a hearing would be held next month for another project to build 9,000 settler units in the Atarot area of East al-Quds, according to Ir Amim, an Israeli rights group that closely follows developments in the occupied city.
A military body has meanwhile scheduled two meetings in the coming weeks to discuss a planned settlement of 3,400 units on a barren hillside outside al-Quds known as E1.
Critics warn that the land garb policies would largely bisect the West Bank, making it impossible to establish an independent Palestinian state with East al-Quds as its capital and leaving millions of Palestinians living under permanent Israeli apartheid rule.
“The fact that simultaneously all of these very controversial plans that have been longstanding international red lines have now been advancing ... is very indicative that the Israeli regime intends to advance and ultimately approve these plans,” said Amy Cohen of Ir Amim.
“These are all incremental steps in order to create a new reality on the ground, an irreparable reality,” Cohen added. “You are foiling any prospect of a two-state framework.”
Hagit Ofran, of the Israeli anti-settlement monitoring group Peace Now, said, “The thing with those plans is that in order to make them come true you need to do the whole process.”
“Every step on the way is in the control of the regime... If they don’t act to stop it, then it happens.”
The Biden administration has criticized Israel’s illegal settlement construction activities as an obstacle to reviving the so-called peace process, but it has not demanded a freeze, the Associated Press reported.
The US president appears keen to avoid a showdown with the Tel Aviv regime as he is prioritizing other challenges like COVID-19 Pandemic, China and climate change.
“We have been clear publicly and in private about where we stand on settlement activity and on annexation,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Thursday. “We oppose any unilateral steps that put a two-state solution further out reach.”
When asked whether that concern had grown recently, he said it had “remained constant.”
Most of the international community considers Israeli settlement construction illegal under international law and an obstacle to the so-called two-state solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds.
The UN Security Council has in several resolutions condemned the Tel Aviv regime’s settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian lands.