Israel said Tuesday it approved 2,500 new settler homes in the West Bank, a controversial moves that signals a major ramp-up of construction just days after the swearing-in of President Trump, whose election has emboldened the settlement movement, reports the AP. Trump is widely expected to be more sympathetic to Israel's settlement policies than the fiercely critical Obama administration, and has also vowed to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem. Israel's nationalist government has welcomed the prospective change in policy, but it also risks igniting Palestinian or even regional unrest.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed on the approval "in response to housing needs." He said the majority of the housing units will be built in settlement "blocs," areas where most settlers live and which Israel wants to keep under its control under any future peace deal with the Palestinians. Some 100 homes were slated for two smaller settlements. The Palestinians want the West Bank, as well the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem—areas captured by Israel in the 1967 war—for their hoped-for state. They, along with much of the international community, view settlements as illegal. (Read more Israel stories.)