JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel announced on Monday plans to build some 800 new settler homes in the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria – before Joe Biden is sworn in as President of the United States.
"It’s important to understand that now we are entering a more difficult time with President Biden. who will soon be coming into office. So Netanyahu is trying to take advantage of the moment before Biden takes office to create a few facts on the ground," said David Rubin, former mayor of the Jewish community of Shiloh and author of "Trump and the Jews."
Netanyahu has his own political concerns as well, with Israel facing another election in March..
"One way of getting support from the rightwing voters is by announcing that there is going to be new building in Judea and Samaria. It doesn’t mean he’s going to follow through on it after he’s elected," Rubin told CBN News.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced the move would include 100 new homes in the community of Esther Horgan, an Israeli settler woman who Israeli authorities say was killed in a terror attack last month.
One resident of that community of Tal Menashe said the new homes are a "suitable answer to the horrific murder."
"The enemies here are trying to end life. We intend to add life," he said. "There will be some sort of retribution that we will add more life here and add more families here and our enemies will know that the murder will not help them and will not benefit them in any way."
Israel captured the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War. However, Palestinians want the area to become part of a future Palestinian state. Today, some 500,000 people live in settlement communities scattered across the biblical heartland.
The Trump administration was supportive of Israeli settlement communities, announcing in November “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not, per se, inconsistent with international law.” Last year, outgoing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the first top American diplomat to visit a West Bank settlement community.
"President Trump has been the best president in the history of the United States-Israel relations," Rubin said.
Biden, on the other hand, sides with the international community, which largely considers the settlements to be illegal and an obstacle to peace. The building of new settlement communities is expected to be a point of tension between Jerusalem and Washington under the Biden administration.
"Being fair-handed means you do what’s right. And what’s right is that the land of Israel was given by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to the people of Israel. that’s what’s right and that’s what Joe Biden has to learn about," said Rubin.
Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, who seeks to oust Netanyahu in March, called the announcement “irresponsible,” and charged Netanyahu with picking an “unnecessary” fight with Washington.
Palestinian leaders also denounced the move, accusing Israel of racing against time to approve the controversial measure while the US focuses on the transition of power from Trump to Biden.
Netanyahu celebrated the announcement on Facebook, saying: “We’re here to stay. We’re continuing to build the Land of Israel!”
It is not immediately clear when construction on the new homes will begin.
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