Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman have approved the construction of 2,500 new homes across Judea and Samaria. Most of the world calls this biblical heartland the West Bank, referring to the 1948 - 1967 when Jordan occupied the area west of its Jordan River boarder; hence, "West Bank."
"We are building and we will continue to build," Netanyahu said. Lieberman added, "We are going back to normal life in Judea and Samaria."
The announcement came after Netanyahu informed the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet on Sunday that he plans to lift restrictions on construction in Jerusalem - and approve extensive housing projects in the existing settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria.
That same day Jerusalem Municipality's Zoning Committee announced it has granted construction permits for hundreds of new housing units in neighborhoods located beyond the Green Line.
Among other things, the change in Israel's settlement construction policy stems from the new US administration that is now in power.
According to plans approved on Tuesday, the most extensive construction projects will be in the city of Ariel, just over the Green Line, where 839 homes will be marketed to the public -- the first step ahead of securing final building permits.
Similar wide-ranging promotion will take place for 385 housing units in the Samaria Regional Council.
Hundreds of housing units will enter the promotion and marketing stage in the greater Jerusalem area as well: 112 homes will be marketed in Maaleh Adumim; 652 in Givat Ze'ev; 87 in Beitar Illit; 21 in Efrat; and four in Gush Etzion.
Lieberman's office stressed Tuesday that the majority of construction plans involve existing settlement blocs.
The projects will also see the government meet its pledge to build 100 homes in the settlement of Beit El, northeast of Ramallah, for the former residents of Migron, an outpost evicted in September 2012.
Lieberman said he also intends to present the government with a plan to build a new Palestinian industrial zone in Tarqumiyah, northwest of Hebron, slated to be one of the largest in Judea and Samaria.
The Land of Israel Lobby in the Israel's parliament, the Knesset, welcomed the move, but said the supply of homes still falls short of meeting the demand.
"It is high time to resume the zoning process in Judea and Samaria, but we are still concerned by the low scale [of permits] compared to the needs, as well as by the lack of development of communities excluded from the Left's bloc plan," the lobby stated in a written release.
Asked about the construction plans during a press briefing Tuesday, new White House press secretary Sean Spicer said US President Donald Trump would discuss the issue with Netanyahu during their meeting in Washington scheduled in February.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' spokesman, called the plans "another blow to the peace process."
Fatah, the ruling faction of the Palestinian Authority and political party headed by Abbas, tweeted a statement that could be regarded as a veiled threat against the US as well as Israel.
Quoting Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian legislator who was a leader of the First Intifada from 1987 -1993, the Twitter posts read as follows:
We will tweet official PLO Statement - Dr. Hanan Ashrawi on the approval of 2,500 illegal settlements units in the Occupied West Bank
"Once again, the Israeli government has proved that it is more committed to land theft and colonialism than to the two-state solution and the requirements for peace and stability.
"Such a deliberate escalation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise constitutes a war crime and flagrant violation of international law and conventions, in particular United Nations Security Council resolution 2334.
"It is evident that Israel is exploiting the inauguration of the new American administration to escalate its violations and the prevention of any existence of a Palestinian state.
"Therefore, we urge the US and the rest of the international community to undertake serious and concrete measures to bring about a full cessation of all
settlement activities and to hold Israel to account for these disastrous plans with punitive measures and sanctions before it completes the destruction of the territorial and demographic contiguity of the West Bank."
Because it is significantly edited, including added information, Brian Schrauger is included as a co-author or this report. the original article, published by Israel Hayom, is online at http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=39829