This, following a public request from the United States to halt construction of Jewish communities in the West Bank districts of Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley.
By Erin Viner
“There will be no construction freeze in Judea and Samaria period,” said a statement issued by the Israeli Religious Zionism party (RZP) headed by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.
The faction is one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s new hard-right allies in the country’s 37th government.
In addition to the Finance Ministry, Minister Smotrich was also granted significant powers as part of his oversight of Defence Ministry organizations responsible for enforcing some regulations in the West Bank.
Several senior members of the coalition, including RZP, have sought to further expand Jewish settlement in the disputed territories, conquered by Israel in the Six Day War.
Israel’s 1967 military victory reunited a then-divided Jerusalem after conquering the eastern portion of the city and parts of the West Bank from Jordan (in addition to the Golan Heights from Syria and Gaza from Egypt). Palestinians demand east Jerusalem and the West Bank for a future country as part of the so-called “Two-State Solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Most world powers consider Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “illegal“.
Refusal to implement a moratorium on building comes just a week after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed Israel to do so.
On a visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah, Blinken publicly repeated Washington’s call for the Two-State Solution, in accordance with the Palestinian Authority’s own insistence that Israeli settlement expansion be halted.
Three American and Arab sources have confirmed that Washington’s top diplomat repeated the request during private talks with Netanyahu, although they emphasized that the request was not expressed as a formal demand.
The last round of US-sponsored peace talks between the sides stalled in 2014.